(Recasts with expected Trump calls, upcoming White House
briefing on North Korea)
* North says ready to hit U.S. carrier with 'single strike'
* South Korea on heightened alert
* North Korea detains third U.S. citizen
* White House to brief senators on Wednesday -official
By James Pearson and Steve Holland
SEOUL/WASHINGTON, April 23 North Korea said on
Sunday it was ready to sink a U.S. aircraft carrier to
demonstrate its military might, in the latest sign of rising
tension as U.S. President Donald Trump prepared to call the
leaders of China and Japan.
The United States ordered the USS Carl Vinson carrier strike
group to sail to waters off the Korean peninsula in response to
mounting concern over the North's nuclear and missile tests, and
its threats to attack the United States and its Asian allies.
The U.S. government has not specified where the carrier
strike group is as it approaches the area. U.S. Vice President
Mike Pence said on Saturday it would arrive "within days," but
gave no other details.
North Korea remained defiant.
"Our revolutionary forces are combat-ready to sink a U.S.
nuclear-powered aircraft carrier with a single strike," the
Rodong Sinmun, the newspaper of the North's ruling Workers'
Party, said in a commentary.
The paper likened the aircraft carrier to a "gross animal"
and said a strike on it would be "an actual example to show our
The commentary was carried on page three of the newspaper,
after a two-page feature about leader Kim Jong Un inspecting a
A senior U.S. administration official said Trump was
expected to speak later on Sunday with Chinese President Xi
Jinping and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
In another sign of the intense focus on Pyongyang in
Washington, the White House is expected to host U.S. senators
for a top-level briefing on North Korea on Wednesday, a White
House official said.
The official said the briefing would be led by Secretary of
State Rex Tillerson, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, Director of
National Intelligence Dan Coats and Marine General Joseph
Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
U.S. and South Korean officials have been saying for weeks
the North could soon stage another nuclear test, something the
United States, China and others have warned against.
South Korea has put its forces on heightened alert.
China, North Korea's sole major ally, opposes Pyongyang's
weapons programmes and has appealed for calm. The United States
has called on China to do more to help defuse the tension.
Speaking during a visit to Greece, Chinese Foreign Minister
Wang Yi said there were already enough shows of force and
confrontation and appealed for calm.
"We need to issue peaceful and rational sounds," Wang said,
according to a statement issued by China's Foreign Ministry.
U.S. CITIZEN DETAINED
Adding to the tensions, North Korea detained a
Korean-American man in his 50s, bringing the total number of
U.S. citizens held by Pyongyang to three.
The man, Tony Kim, had been in North Korea for a month
teaching accounting at the Pyongyang University of Science and
Technology (PUST), the institution's chancellor, Chan-Mo Park,
told Reuters. He was arrested at Pyongyang International Airport
on his way out of the country.
The arrest took place on Saturday morning local time, the
university said in a statement, and was "related to an
investigation into matters that are not connected in any way to
North Korea will mark the 85th anniversary of the foundation
of its Korean People's Army on Tuesday.
It has in the past marked important anniversaries with tests
of its weapons.
North Korea has conducted five nuclear tests, two of them
last year, and is working to develop nuclear-tipped missiles
that can reach the United States.
It has also carried out a series of ballistic missile tests
in defiance of U.N. sanctions.
North Korea's growing nuclear and missile threat is perhaps
the most serious security challenge confronting Trump.
He has vowed to prevent the North from being able to hit the
United States with a nuclear missile and has said all options
are on the table, including a military strike.
WORRY IN JAPAN
North Korea says its nuclear programme is for self-defence
and has warned the United States of a nuclear attack in response
to any aggression. It has also threatened to lay waste to South
Korea and Japan.
The U.S. defense secretary said on Friday that North Korea's
recent statements were provocative but had proven to be hollow
in the past and should not be trusted.
"We've all come to hear their words repeatedly; their word
has not proven honest," Mattis told a news conference in Tel
Aviv, before the latest threat to the aircraft carrier.
Two Japanese warships, the Samidare and Ashigara, left
western Japan on Friday to join the Carl Vinson and will
"practice a variety of tactics" with the U.S. strike group, the
Japan Maritime Self Defence Force said in a statement.
The Japanese force did not specify where the exercises were
taking place, but the destroyers by Sunday could have reached an
area 2,500 km (1,500 miles) south of Japan, which would be east
of the Philippines.
From there, it could take three days to reach waters off the
Korean peninsula. Japan's ships would accompany the Carl Vinson
north at least into the East China Sea, a source with knowledge
of the plan said.
Japan's show of naval force reflects growing concern that
North Korea could strike it with nuclear or chemical warheads.
Some Japanese ruling party lawmakers are urging Abe to
acquire strike weapons that could hit North Korean missile
forces before any imminent attack.
Japan's navy, which is mostly a destroyer fleet, is the
second largest in Asia after China's.
(Additional reporting by Ju-min Park in SEOUL, Tim Kelly in
TOKYO and Ben Blanchard in BEIJING; Writing by James Pearson and
Phil Stewart; Editing by Alexander Smith and Peter Cooney)