As the U.S. completes military drills off of South Korea's eastern coast, a top North Korean official warned on Monday that "nuclear war can break out at any moment" and that the tensions that have escalated amid President Donald Trump's threats have propelled the two countries to "the touch-and-go point."
North Korea's deputy ambassador to the United Nations said in his address to the U.N. General Assembly's disarmament committee that the U.S. has not subjected any other country to "such an extreme and direct nuclear threat" in several decades.
While the State Department says it is still attempting diplomatic means to prevent further nuclear development by North Korea, the exercises the U.S. is participating in this week off the Korean peninsula have stoked fears that military action by the U.S. could be imminent. The Navy is completing evacuation drills as well as other exercises.
As Trump has issued several direct threats to North Korea in recent weeks, support among Republicans for military action against the impoverished country has gone up. A Quinnipiac University poll taken last week found that 46 percent of Republicans support a preemptive strike against North Korea. Across party lines, however, 62 percent would disapprove of such a measure.
North Korea has launched several missiles over Japan in the past two months, and conducted a nuclear test in September. Trump responded by threatening to "totally destroy North Korea" at the U.N. General Assembly last month, weeks after spontaneously telling the press that Kim Jong-un's tests would be met with "fire and fury."
Trump's bellicose rhetoric has worried many American allies while his cabinet members have attempted to reassure the public that diplomatic efforts are still being made.
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Meanwhile, nuclear disarmament advocacy groups are calling for an end to the president's threats and stressing the need for negotiation with North Korea—the same kind of diplomacy that the Obama administration engaged in to reach the Iran nuclear deal in 2015, which Trump has threatened to terminate after asserting, contrary to the analysis of theand his own Secretary of State, that Iran was not in compliance with the deal.