SEOUL (Reuters) -- North Korea said it would take "prompt corresponding actions” if the United States resorts to military force, state media reported on Wednesday, as tensions rise ahead of Pyongyang’s year-end deadline for stalled denuclearization talks.
The statement came just hours after North Korea announced it would convene a rare gathering of top ruling-party officials later this month, and state media showed photos of leader Kim Jong Un taking a second symbolic horse ride on the country’s sacred Mt. Paektu.
U.S. President Donald Trump, in Britain for a NATO summit, said on Tuesday that Washington could use military force against North Korea "if we have to”, though he added he still hoped for talks.
Kim was "displeased to hear” those comments, Pak Jong Chon, chief of the General Staff of the Korean People’s Army, said in a statement carried by North Korea’s state news agency KCNA.
"I clearly state here that if the U.S. uses any armed forces against the DPRK, we will also take prompt corresponding actions at any level,” Pak said, using the initials of North Korea’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
"The use of armed forces against the DPRK will be a horrible thing for the U.S.”
North Korea and the United States are still technically at war and the state of truce could turn into an "all-out armed conflict any moment” even by accident, Pak said.
For the second time in two months, Kim visited Mt Paektu on horseback, this time accompanied by senior military officers, aimed at instilling the mountain’s "indefatigable revolutionary spirit” in the people, KCNA reported.
Kim has warned the United States it has until the end of the year to offer more concessions or North Korea will pursue an unspecified "new path”. Analysts believe that may include a resumption of intercontinental ballistic missile launches or nuclear tests.
Washington has urged North Korea to give up significant portions of its nuclear arsenal before punishing international sanctions are eased, while Pyongyang has accused the United States of "gangster-like” demands for unilateral disarmament.
U.S. officials have called for more talks, while playing down the deadline as "artificial” and warning that it would be a "huge mistake and a missed opportunity” for North Korea to take any provocative steps.
But North Korean state media have carried a steady chorus of statements in recent weeks, saying Washington should not ignore the warning and dismissing U.S. calls for talks as a stalling tactic.