US Vice President Mike Pence said on Wednesday that Washington would work with its allies and China to put economic and diplomatic pressure on North Korea, but added that America would defeat any attack with an "overwhelming response."
Pence arrived in Tokyo on Tuesday from South Korea and reassured Japan of US commitment to rein in North Korea's nuclear and missile ambitions in a series of meetings with Japanese leaders, including Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
"Those who would challenge our resolve or readiness should know, we will defeat any attack and beat any use of conventional or nuclear weapons with an overwhelming and effective American response," Pence said aboard the USS Ronald Reagan, reiterating that all options are on the table when dealing with Pyongyang.
Pence's comments come after a senior North Korean official warned the regime had no intention of dialling down its missile programme, pledging weekly tests and threatening "all-out war" if the US took any action against it.
China concerned at developments
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang on Wednesday said all parties should make efforts to resolve the situation.
"China expresses serious concern with recent trends about North Korea's nuclear and missile development," he said.
The situation was tense and China was resolutely opposed to any words or actions that could further raise tension, Lu added.
North Korea regularly threatens to destroy South Korea, Japan and the United States and it showed no let-up in its belligerence after the failed missile test on Sunday, a day after putting on a huge display of missiles at a parade in Pyongyang.
North Korea's deputy representative to the United Nations, Kim In-ryong, accused the US on Monday of creating "a situation where nuclear war could break out at any time" and said the North's next nuclear test would take place "at a time and at a place where our headquarters deems necessary."
Allies silent, jibes in China over US carrier mix-up
America's allies in Asia were silent on Wednesday over confusion about a US aircraft carrier group that was supposed to be headed toward North Korea in a show of force, but was actually completing training exercises in Australia.
But many Chinese took to social media to joke about it.
"American imperialism is a paper tiger," said one user on Weibo, China's version of Twitter.
"The aircraft carrier was sleep-walking," said another.
The US military's Pacific Command explained on Tuesday that the Carl Vinson strike group first had to complete a shorter-than-initially planned period of training with Australia.
But it was now "proceeding to the Western Pacific as ordered," it said.
US President Donald Trump said last week that he had ordered the strike group to head for Korean waters amid talk that unpredictable North Korea was likely to conduct a nuclear or long-range ballistic missile test.
"We cannot comment on details of US operation of its assets," a military official said in Seoul, the capital of South Korea.
North Korea remains technically at war with the South and the United States because the 1950-53 Korean War ended in an armistice and no peace treaty was signed.
Japan, the other main US ally in the region, did not comment on the mix-up, while China's foreign ministry declined to comment at a regular briefing.
North Korea did not refer to the mix-up but said the United States and its allies "should not mess with us."
"A nuclear-powered aircraft carrier that the United States and its puppet group are loudly advertising is nothing more than a pile of scrap metal in the face of our revolutionary forces' mighty power," said the Rodong Sinmun, the official newspaper of the North's governing Workers' Party.