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20 April 2017, 06:56 | Erica Roy
The reports came after Trump said that the North Korean nuclear issue would be "taken care of", while at the same time calling on China to pressure its neighbor into giving up its nuclear program.
None of the dozen or so North Korea experts contacted by Business Insider said large-scale military action against the regime was credible.
But at the time of the announcements, the ships had temporarily headed in the opposite direction, to the Indian Ocean, for military exercises with Australia.
The singing was followed by footage of its test-firing of a missile in February which, in the video, was joined by other missiles shooting into sky, passing over the Pacific and exploding in giant balls of flames in the United States.
Trump also expressed confidence that - after his summit earlier this month with Chinese leader Xi Jinping - the standoff will be resolved with Beijing's full support.
From the wind-swept deck of a massive aircraft carrier, Vice President Mike Pence on Wednesday warned North Korea not to test the resolve of the US military, promising it would make an "overwhelming and effective" response to any use of conventional or nuclear weapons. "Nobody's ever seen such a positive response on our behalf from China", he said.
And North Korea's deputy ambassador to the United Nations vowed that any U.S. strike would provoke "the toughest counteraction".
North Korea put on a musical show to mark the birthday of founding father Kim Il Sung, which ended with a mock-up video of missiles engulfing the United States in flames, prompting cheers from the audience and smiles from current leader Kim Jong Un. "If that was a lie, then during Trump's term, South Korea will not trust whatever Trump says". Although it is possible the extensive preparations around its nuclear test site were intended only to wind up the worldwide community, it seems more likely that the North Koreans did indeed plan a nuclear test Saturday but desisted, probably because they assessed the risks of serious retaliation were too great.
"We've seen some tangible indications that they're working towards this end, but it's still quite early", said Susan Thornton, acting assistant secretary for East Asian affairs. Seoul, the South Korean capital, is within easy range of North Korean long-range artillery.
Longtime observers of the crisis are skeptical. "It can cause North Korea to revisit prior assumptions and to kind of rethink the situation, but it's unclear yet whether that's going to have a sufficient effect to actually bring this to a good conclusion".
Part of the festivities was a lengthy military concert that featured a video of North Korean missiles striking what appears to be San Francisco. He has since praised China for trying to increase pressure on Pyongyang.
But - whatever speculation about a military option and despite sanctions proving so unsuccessful for Trump's predecessors - Thornton told reporters that a choice had been made.
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