US warns of 'swift and forceful response' as allies showcase air power amid North Korea tensions
Queensland has won the State of Origin series opener, holding on for a 16-10 win over the Blues
US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman says there will be a strong and clear response from the United States, South Korea and the world if North Korea goes ahead with a nuclear test.
She made the comment as the South Korean and US militaries flew warplanes — including F-35A stealth fighter jets and F16 fighter jets — off South Korea's western coast in a joint military exercise on Tuesday.
The show of force came a day after the allies fired eight surface-to-surface missiles off South Korea's east coast in response to a barrage of short-range ballistic missiles launched by North Korea on Sunday.
"South Korea and the United States demonstrated their strong ability and determination to quickly and accurately strike any North Korean provocation," the South Korean military said in a statement, adding the allies were closely monitoring and preparing for any further provocation by the North.
The statement came hours after Ms Sherman met with her South Korean counterpart, Cho Hyun-dong, in Seoul to discuss North Korea.
The reclusive state has staged a series of missile tests recently and some analysts believe it is preparing to resume testing nuclear weapons after a five-year hiatus.
"Any nuclear test would be in complete violation of UN Security Council resolutions [and] there would be a swift and forceful response to such a test," Ms Sherman said
"I believe that not only [South Korea] and United States and Japan but the entire world will respond in a strong and clear manner.
"We are prepared and … we will continue our trilateral discussion [with South Korea and Japan] tomorrow," she added.
The United States' special envoy for North Korea says it is "preparing for all contingencies", in close coordination with its South Korean and Japanese allies, as it monitors North Korean arrangements for a possible nuclear test explosion.
Authorities and North Korean experts have been saying for weeks that there are signs of new construction at Punggye-ri, North Korea's only known nuclear test site.
International Atomic Energy Agency chief Rafael Grossi on Monday said North Korean building work expanding key facilities at its main nuclear facility at Yongbyon is advancing.
North Korea has been suffering from its first-ever reported outbreak of COVID-19 in the past month, with the country reporting a total 4,198,890 people with fever symptoms as of Monday.
North Korea has not confirmed the total number of people testing positive for the coronavirus.
Pyongyang has so far refused any help offered by Washington and Seoul, even as the World Health Organization says the COVID-19 situation there is deteriorating.
"We hope that [North Korean leader] Kim Jong Un will be focused on helping his people to meet this challenge of COVID-19 which we have all faced and will return to the negotiating table rather than taking provocative and dangerous and destabilising actions," Ms Sherman said.
We acknowledge Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the First Australians and Traditional Custodians of the lands where we live, learn, and work.
This service may include material from Agence France-Presse (AFP), APTN, Reuters, AAP, CNN and the BBC World Service which is copyright and cannot be reproduced.
AEST = Australian Eastern Standard Time which is 10 hours ahead of GMT (Greenwich Mean Time)
‘This too shall pass away’ this famous Persian adage seems to be defeating us again and again in the case of COVID-19. Despite every effort