N.Korea has maintained readiness for nuclear test any time - S.Korea

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Choe denounced joint annual military exercises now being carried out by the United States and South Korea on the divided peninsula, and criticised remarks by Tillerson during his talks with regional allies last week.

There's nothing new about the idea that the US would defend South Korea against an attack from the North.

The Republic of Korea (ROK) and the U.S. are now conducting the annual Foal Eagle exercise, a field training exercise (FTX) which aims to develop capabilities for ROK-U.S. combined operations and which began on March 1 and will continue until April 30.

"The current situation on the peninsula is extremely tense - "everyone with his dagger drawn" would be a fair description", she said. Recent provocations are probably a prelude to the launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile, according to a South Korean foreign ministry statement.

North Korea will pursue "acceleration" of its nuclear and missile programmes including developing a "pre-emptive first-strike capability", a diplomat from Pyongyang warned on Tuesday. The two-month Foal Eagle combat training exercise kicked off March 1.

No doubt the administration is discovering what deterred President Barack Obama: U.S. options range from the very bad to the truly awful.

"All he was talking about is for the United States to take military actions on DPRK", Choe said, using the acronym for the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. "Missile tests are a nice way to send a signal".

"We consider (the proposal) the only correct, fair and reasonable way out of the current dilemma".

Warren Buffet famously said, "Only when the tide goes out do you discover who's been swimming naked".

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Reports of a possible nuclear test came as the UN Security Council on Thursday blasted the North's latest ballistic missile launch and an earlier rocket engine test as yet another breach of UN resolutions.

Three of them landed less than 200 nautical miles off the Japanese coast, antagonizing the South Korean and Japanese governments.

"Chances are high that North Korea may soon take additional provocative steps", a senior defense ministry official said on background. "That's a third of the time they used to need", Carl Schuster, a professor at Hawaii Pacific University, told CNN at the time.

North Korea responded to Tillerson's visit by saying it's not afraid of his stance and the USA needs to understand its pursuit of a nuclear deterrent, according to KCNA.

Here is a look at North Korea's nuclear capabilities and the history of its weapons program. The launch failure Wednesday highlights some recent setbacks for the country's missile program.

Believed to have a minimum range of 1,500 miles, the missile is of concern to USA officials because mobile-launched missiles are hard to track and can be fired on short notice.

Wang urged his counterpart to to remain "coolheaded" about North Korea and not to abandon dialogue. The U.N. has placed sanctions against North Korea for violations of nuclear weapons development rules.

"And we have been prepared to deter, to counter-attack such attacks on the part of the US".