NBC News reports that bringing nuclear weapons back to South Korea for the first time in nearly 25 years would be the first course of action, and would be the first nuclear deployment since the Cold War ended.
As Chinese President Xi Jinping arrived in Florida for a summit meeting with Trump, North Korea’s Foreign Ministry said that the US "crossed the red line," as Washington continues to pressure Beijing to address the issues created by its southern neighbor.
Hours before Xi and his wife arrived in Florida, the ministry released a statement through the state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) warning, "If a war were to erupt on the Korean Peninsula, no matter who preemptively strikes first, the responsibility shall be with the United States, which stringently adopted anti-North Korea policies and deployed nuclear strategic assets and special operations forces [in South Korea]."
The ministry made no mention of retaliating against Beijing and said that it would only strike South Korean and US bases in accordance with the August 1949 Geneva Conventions.
Trump has accused China of not pulling its weight in trying to rein in Pyongyang’s incessant ballistic missile launches and nuclear weapons development, and Washington officials say this will be a central topic of his and Xi’s discussion.
What separates these threats from North Korea’s usual chest-beating is the recent unveiling of images from watchdog site 38 North indicating increased excavation activity at the Punggye-ri nuclear test site, which could mean a sixth nuclear test is forthcoming.
On Thursday, 38 North Reported, "Over the past four weeks, there have been unusually high levels of activity at the Punggye-ri nuclear test site," noting the uptick of activity around the North Portal, where the most recent tests took place.
"This pattern of activity could mean a sixth nuclear test is imminent…but the imagery does not provide any definitive evidence of the installation of a nuclear device or the exact timing of such a test."
North Korea conducted a missile test ahead of the Trump-Xi meeting, and it is believed that another could happen at any time.
Recently, the DPRK has shown a predilection for showing force through missile tests during significant political events, such as on February 12, when Trump met with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the "Southern White House," a nickname for his Mar-a-lago resort property in Florida.
Trump said at the time, "I just want everybody to understand and fully know that the United States of America stands behind Japan — its great ally — 100 percent."
As Trump boarded Air Force One on Thursday, Trump said Beijing will "want to be stepping up," its efforts to deter North Korea from continuing its aggressive actions.
Beijing has countered US, claims saying it has imposed UN ordered sanctions against Pyongyang, including suspending all coal imports from the country.
On Thursday, the UN Security Council condemned Pyongyang for its "flagrant and provocative defiance" of the council and their resolutions.