Kim Jong-un’s regime has promised to retaliate “by powerful force of arms” after a US navy aircraft carrier was deployed into the Sea of Japan.
The state-owned news agency KCNA quoted the foreign ministry as saying: “We will hold the US wholly accountable for the catastrophic consequences to be entailed by its outrageous actions.
"The DPRK is ready to react to any mode of war desired by the US.”
US President Donald Trump ordered the deployment after he held “extensive discussions around the dangerous situation in North Korea” during talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping last week.
As the situation continues to escalate, here is a look back at the history of North Korea.
Where is North Korea?
North Korea occupies the northern half of the Korean peninsula, separated from South Korea by the Korean Demilitarised Zone – a highly militarised strip of land which serves as a buffer between the nations.
The country is also bordered by China to the north and Russia to the north-east. It is separated from Japan by the Sea of Japan. Pyongyang is the North’s capital city and home to its communist regime.
North Korea is bordered by China and Russia
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North Korea history – a timeline
1945 – Korea is liberated from Japanese rule after the end of the Second World War. Soviet troops occupy the north of the peninsula, with the US moving in to the south. Korea is initially split along the 38th parallel.
1946 – The communist Korean Worker’s Party is created and a Soviet-backed leadership is installed.
1948 – The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea – the official name of North Korea – is proclaimed. Kim Il-sung is installed as leader. He would later be succeeded by his son, Kim Jong-il, and his grandson, Kim Jong-un.
At the same time the Republic of Korea (South Korea) is established. Neither government recognises the other.
1950 – The Korean War begins after the 75,000 soldiers from the North invades the South. The conflict lasts for three years with the US backing the South and China backing the North. The war ends with an armistice in 1953, after some five million soldiers and civilians are killed. The Korean Demilitarised Zone replaces the 38th parallel as the North-South split.
Kim Il-sung was the first leader of North Korea
1968 – After a decade of tension, Pyongyang launches an unsuccessful attempt to assassinate the South Korean President Park Chung-hee. Shortly after, the North Korean navy captures the US spy ship Pueblo and holds its crew captive until Washington releases an apology.
1972 – The first formal meeting between the North and the South is held. Kim Il-sung says that peaceful reunification is desired as “early as possible”.
1985 – North Korea joins the international Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), banning it from producing nuclear weapons.
1991 – Both North and South Korea join the United Nations.
1993 – North Korea fires a medium-range ballistic missile into the Sea of Japan, shortly after it is accused of violating the NPT.
1994 – Kim Il-sung dies of a heart attack and is succeeded by Kim Jong-il.
Kim Jong-il became leader after his father's death
1996 – Around three million North Koreans die from starvation following widespread floods. In April, the North declares that it will no longer abide by the armistice that ended the Korean War and sends troops into the Demilitarised Zone.
In September, a North Korean submarine runs aground in the South. All but one on board are killed, along with 17 South Koreans.
1998 – North Korea fires its first-ever long-range missile which lands in the Pacific Ocean.
2000 – Kim Jong-il and South Korean President Kim Dae-jung shake hands at a historic summit in Pyongyang. Border liaison offices are reopened, allowing for families to be reunited, and 3,5000 North Korean prisoners are granted amnesty by the South.
2002 – US President George W Bush brands North Korea, Iran and Iraq an “axis of evil” in January. In October, Pyongyang reportedly admits that is has been developing a uranium-based nuclear programme. The US, Japan and the South bar oil shipments to the North.
2003 – North Korea withdraws from the NPT and later declares it has reprocessed 8,000 spent nuclear fuel rods, enough to develop six nuclear bombs.
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KIM JONG-SUK: North Korean founder Kim Il-sung and his first wife Kim Jong-suk gave birth to their son Kim Jong-il in 1941.
2005 – Pyongyang admits that it has produced nuclear warheads for “self-defence”.
2006 – North Korea conducts its first nuclear weapons test at an underground test site in Punggye-ri. The blast has an explosive force of less than one kilotonne, leading many to think that it “fizzled” rather than detonated properly.
2007 – A second inter-Korean summit is held in Pyongyang, but relations break down just months later.
2009 – North Korea launches its second nuclear test amid a succession crisis, after Kim Jong-il suffers a major stroke. The UN passes a resolution banning North Korea from any further nuclear testing. Pyongyang sends a delegation to the funeral of South Korean President Kim Dae-jung in a conciliatory gesture.
2010 – The North sinks a South Korean warship near the sea border, escalating tensions.
2011 – Kim Jong-il dies of a suspected heart attack and is succeeded by Kim Jong-un.
Kim Jong-un became leader in 2011
2012 – A long-range missile launch fails. North Korea says that the rocket was launched to put a satellite into orbit, which they successfully do so later in the year.
2013 – Pyongyang announces its third test, which featured "a miniaturised and lighter nuclear device with greater explosive force than previously”, creating am earthquake of magnitude 5.1. The UN announces fresh sanctions. In December Kim Jong-un's uncle Chang Song-thaek is executed after he is found guilty of attempting to overthrow the state.
2014 – North Korea fires two medium-range ballistic missiles, in violation of UN sanctions. Two drones alleged to be from the North are found in the South.
2015 – The Yongbyon nuclear plant is put back into operation. The US imposes new sanctions over weapons proliferation.
2016 – North Korea conducts its fifth and largest nuclear test, and says that it now has the technology to mount a nuclear warhead to a missile. A 5.3 magnitude earthquake is recorded 15 miles north east of Sungjibaegam, just 11 miles below the surface. UN sanctions follow.
January 2017 – North Korean diplomat Thae Yong-ho, who defected to the South in 2106, says that "Kim Jong-un's days are numbered”.
February 2017 – Kim Jong-un's half-brother Kim Jong-nam is killed after being attacked by two women with a chemical weapon in Kuala Lumpur airport, Malaysia. Pyongyang is accused of orchestrating the attack.
March 2017 – North Korea fires four ballistic missiles into the Sea of Japan. A US Navy aircraft carrier is moved into the area, escalating tensions between Washington and Pyongyang. The North promises that it will retaliate “by powerful force of arms”.