On Monday Pyongyang declared that it was ready to conduct its sixth nuclear test whenever leadership deemed appropriate, as the North Korean capital continues trading shows of force with Washington.
The North is "fully ready to respond to any option taken by the US," according to a statement published by the Korean Central News Agency from a North Korean foreign ministry spokesman, who added that "measures for bolstering the nuclear force to the maximum will be taken in a consecutive and successive way at any moment and any place decided by its supreme leadership."
Although tensions between Washington and Pyongyang looked as though they may ease somewhat in recent weeks, as the US considered going into talks with the North, the US’ refusal to rule out military action combined with Pyongyang’s recent pronouncements have again strained the possibility of a diplomatic resolution.
US President Donald Trump on Monday told the Washington Examiner, "North Korea weighs on me, but we have to be prepared for the worst…We have to be prepared to do what we have to do. We cannot allow this to go on."
He added that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has been "very threatening," and "saying terrible things."
However, in a separate interview with Bloomberg Monday Trump said he was willing to meet with Kim under certain circumstances, though he was vague about what those circumstances were.
"If it would be appropriate for me to meet with him, I would absolutely, I would be honored to do it," he said. "If it’s under the, again, under the right circumstances. But I would do that."
Trump has been pressuring China to be more aggressive in its approach to the North Korean issue, though he described Chinese President Xi Jinping as "a fantastic person."
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi responded bluntly to this sentiment at a recent UN Security Council meeting, saying, "The key to solving the nuclear issue on the peninsula does not lie in the hands of the Chinese side … It is necessary to put aside the debate over who should take the first step and stop arguing who is right and who is wrong." Wang added, "Now is the time to seriously consider resuming talks."
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who chaired the meeting, flatly rebuffed these remarks, saying the US "will not negotiate our way back to the negotiating table with North Korea, we will not reward their violations of past resolutions, we will not reward their bad behavior with talks."