US warns North Korea to 'cease actions that could lead to destruction of its people'

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US Defence Secretary James Mattis has warned North Korea to “cease any consideration of actions that would lead to the end of its regime and the destruction of its people”.

Mr Mattis said any action by North Korea would be grossly overmatched by the US, and that Pyongyang would lose any arms race or conflict it started.

He said that while the US is pursuing diplomatic solutions, the combined military power of America and its allies is the most robust on Earth.

Mr Mattis issued a statement as he travelled to the West Coast. 

US Secretary of Defense James Mattis (EPA)

It comes after America declared itself ready to “fight tonight” and the US air force published photographs of two B-1B bombers taking part in a 10-hour mission with jets from South Korea and Japan.

On Tuesday, President Donald Trump threatened to unleash “fire and fury like the world has never seen” on North Korea.

In apparent retaliation to his rhetoric, the rogue state said it was “carefully examining” plans to attack the tiny Pacific island of Guam, a US territory which hosts an air base, and create an “enveloping fire” in the region. 

Today the island’s inhabitants woke to find themselves in the crosshairs of the spiralling war of words. Governor Eddie Calvo released a two-minute video message to residents, telling them: “I want to ensure that we are prepared for any eventuality.” 

He claimed there had been no change in the threat level but added: “I have reached out to the White House this morning.

North Korea examines Guam attack plan after Trump’s ‘fire and fury’ warning

“An attack or threat to Guam is a threat or attack on the United States. They have said that America will be defended.”

A new report says Pyongyang’s nuclear programme is progressing.

Meanwhile, France is urging all sides “to act responsibly and to de-escalate” tensions over North Korea’s nuclear ambitions.

French government spokesman Christophe Castaner said Paris is “watching what’s going on with concern” and “is ready to put all its means at disposal so we can find a peaceful solution”.

The 10-hour mission in the Pacific came amid rapidly escalating tensions between the US and N Korea (EPA)

Britain’s UN ambassador said the United Kingdom “stands shoulder to shoulder with the United States” in tackling the nuclear threat from North Korea and making sure it cannot pursue its nuclear and ballistic missile programmes.

Matthew Rycroft told reporters at UN headquarters in New York that the US and UK have been very clear in demanding a halt to North Korea’s nuclear and missile programmes. He said Kim Jong Un’s regime should listen to and “act on that clarity”.

Mr Rycroft stressed that North Korea “holds the key to sanctions being removed”.

Asked whether Mr Trump’s escalating rhetoric was hurting prospects for reviving negotiations, Mr Rycroft said: “What’s hurting the six-party talks is the inability so far of the North Korean regime to do what it has to do which is to halt its nuclear programme and to halt its intercontinental ballistic missile programme.

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