North Korea warned the United States on Thursday that it would take “merciless self-defensive” measures should it impose a naval blockade.
Citing a foreign ministry spokesman, the North’s KCNA news agency said a naval blockade would be a “wanton violation” of the country’s sovereignty and dignity.
Pyongyang sees such a step as “an act of war”, it added.
US President Donald Trump was taking an “extremely dangerous and big step towards the nuclear war” by seeking such a blockade, it added. It was not immediately clear what US proposal the agency was referring to.
Washington has not publicly called for a blockade of North Korea, but has sought tougher UN steps, including non-consensual inspections of shipping to North Korea.
“Should the United States and its followers try to enforce the naval blockade against our country, we will see it as an act of war and respond with merciless self-defensive counter-measures as we have warned repeatedly,” the agency said.
Earlier, Chinese President Xi Jinping said that the crisis over North Korea’s weapons programs must be resolved through talks, not war.
Xi made his comments to visiting South Korean President Moon Jae-in after US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson offered on Tuesday to begin direct talks with North Korea without pre-conditions.
But the White House said on Wednesday that no negotiations could be held until North Korea improved its behavior.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said Tillerson’s offer of direct contacts with North Korea was “a very good signal” while warning that any US strike on the country would have catastrophic consequences.
Tillerson is to attend a UN Security Council ministerial meeting on North Korea in New York on Friday at which he plans to urge countries to maintain a US-led campaign to pressure Pyongyang to abandon its weapons programs through sanctions.
Meeting in Beijing’s Great Hall of the People, Xi told Moon the goal of denuclearizing the Korean peninsula must be stuck to, and war and chaos cannot be allowed, Chinese state media said.
“The peninsula issue must, in the end, be resolved via dialogue and consultation,” Xi was cited as saying.
China and South Korea have an important shared interest in maintaining peace, and China was willing to work with South Korea to promote talks and support North and South to improve relations, Xi said.
South Korea’s Yonhap news agency said Xi and Moon agreed war on the peninsula would not be tolerated and they would cooperate in applying sanctions and pressure on North Korea.
The apparently warm tone of their talks followed nearly a year of tense relations between the two countries.
China has been furious about the deployment of the US-made Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) anti-missile system in South Korea, saying its powerful radar can see far into China.
China and South Korea agreed in October to normalize exchanges and move past the dispute, which froze trade and business exchanges.
Xi reiterated China’s position on THAAD and said he hoped South Korea would continue to “appropriately handle” the issue.
Meanwhile, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres warned of the danger of “sleepwalking” into conflict with North Korea.
Guterres, speaking to reporters in Tokyo after meeting Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, said Security Council resolutions on North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs must be fully implemented by Pyongyang and other countries.
He said he expected Friday’s Security Council meeting would deliver a strong expression of unity and the need for diplomacy to resolve the issue.
“The worst possible thing that could happen is for us all to sleepwalk into a war,” he said.
North Korea tested its most advanced intercontinental ballistic missile on November 29, which it said could put all of the United States within range, in defiance of international pressure and UN sanctions.
The United States has said all options were on the table in dealing with North Korea, including military action.