China banned all imports of North Korean coal on February 26 under United Nations sanctions, cutting off the North's most important export, and on Friday, Chinese state broadcaster CCTV said national airline Air China was suspending flights to Pyongyang. In an exclusive interview with The Associated Press in Pyongyang, Vice Minister Han Song Ryol also said Pyongyang won't "keep its arms crossed" in the face of a pre-emptive strike by the U.S. Tensions are deepening as the U.S. has sent an aircraft carrier to waters off the peninsula and is conducting its biggest-ever joint military exercises with South Korea.
Tong Zhao, said, "it's not economical to use ICBM to deliver chemical weapons, makes sense for nuclear warhead, chemical weapons more relevant for regional targets like Seoul or Japan".
"The US introduces into the Korean Peninsula, the world's biggest hotspot, huge nuclear strategic assets, seriously threatening peace and security of the peninsula and pushing the situation there to the brink of a war", the North Koran Foreign Ministry on Friday.
"Whatever comes from USA politicians, if their words are created to overthrow the DPRK system and government, we will categorically reject them".
Speaking through an interpreter provided by the foreign ministry, Han was calm and polite but forceful throughout the 40-minute interview.
Tensions are deepening as the USA has sent an aircraft carrier to waters off the peninsula and is conducting its biggest-ever joint military exercises with South Korea.
Concern has grown since the U.S. Navy fired 59 Tomahawk missiles at a Syrian airfield last week in response to a deadly gas attack, raising questions about U.S. President Donald Trump's plans for North Korea, which has conducted missile and nuclear tests in defiance of United Nations and unilateral sanctions.
There are reports of activity at a nuclear test site in North Korea ahead of Saturday's 105th anniversary of the birth of the country's founder Kim Il-Sung. "At a time and at a place where the headquarters deems necessary, it will take place".
"If the USA comes with reckless military maneuvers, then we will confront it with the DPRK's pre-emptive strike".
"We've got a powerful nuclear deterrent already in our hands, and we certainly will not keep our arms crossed in the face of a USA pre-emptive strike", he said.
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He added that the USA will resolve North Korea's problem alone if China does not help rein in Pyongyang's nuclear aspirations. Meanwhile, US Vice-President Mike Pence is likely to travel to South Korea soon in what can be seen as a sign of the USA commitment to its ally in the face of rising tensions over North Korea's nuclear program.
"There is certain to be powerful punitive measure that will be hard for the North Korean regime to endure", the South's Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
It is also unclear whether reports indicating the military options the U.S.is assessing on North Korea include a preventative or retaliatory strike should a the country go forward with another nuclear test.
Trump tweeted Tuesday that the North was "looking for trouble" and if China didn't do its part to rein in Pyongyang's nuclear ambitions, the US could handle it alone.
"Trump is always making provocations with his aggressive words", Mr Han said.
"The army and people of the DPRK will as ever courageously counter those who encroach upon the dignity and sovereignty of the DPRK and will always mercilessly ravage all provocative options of the US with Korean-style toughest counteraction". Trump has not ruled out taking military action against Pyongyang and vowed to get Kim Jong Un's regime "under control" without China's help.
But Han said it was prepared for provocative acts.
Early Friday, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi weighed in, saying there would be no winners in an armed conflict between the US and North Korea.
Speaking on Friday, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi also said there would be "no winner" in a potential war, and that the party that triggered conflict would "pay the price".