North Korea says ready to strike U.S. aircraft carrier

North Korea said on Sunday it was ready to sink a U.S. aircraft carrier to demonstrate its military might, as two Japanese navy ships joined a U.S. carrier group for exercises in the western Pacific.

U.S. President Donald Trump ordered the USS Carl Vinson carrier strike group to sail to waters off the Korean peninsula in response to rising tension over the North's nuclear and missile tests, and its threats to attack the United States and its Asian allies.

The United States has not specified where the carrier strike group is as it approaches the area. U.S. Vice President Mike Pence said on Saturday it would arrive "within days" but gave no other details.

North Korea remained defiant.

"Our revolutionary forces are combat-ready to sink a U.S. nuclear powered aircraft carrier with a single strike," the Rodong Sinmun, the newspaper of the North's ruling Workers' Party, said in a commentary.

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A missile is carried by a military vehicle during a parade to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the signing of a truce in the 1950-1953 Korean War, at Kim Il-sung Square in Pyongyang July 27, 2013. REUTERS/Jason Lee (NORTH KOREA - Tags: POLITICS MILITARY ANNIVERSARY)
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A North Korean scientist looks at a monitor showing the Unha-3 (Milky Way 3) rocket on a launch pad at the West Sea Satellite Launch Site, at the satellite control centre of the Korean Committee of Space Technology on the outskirts of Pyongyang April 11, 2012. North Korea said on Wednesday it was injecting fuel into a long-range rocket ahead of a launch condemned by its neighbours and the West. The launch is set to take place between Thursday and next Monday and has prompted neighbours such as the Philippines to re-route their air traffic. REUTERS/Bobby Yip (NORTH KOREA - Tags: POLITICS MILITARY SCIENCE TECHNOLOGY TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY)
A soldier stands guard in front of the Unha-3 (Milky Way 3) rocket sitting on a launch pad at the West Sea Satellite Launch Site, during a guided media tour by North Korean authorities in the northwest of Pyongyang April 8, 2012. REUTERS/Bobby Yip (NORTH KOREA - Tags: POLITICS MILITARY TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY)
North Korean soldiers salute in a military vehicle carrying a missile during a parade to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the signing of a truce in the 1950-1953 Korean War, at Kim Il-sung Square in Pyongyang July 27, 2013. REUTERS/Jason Lee (NORTH KOREA - Tags: POLITICS MILITARY ANNIVERSARY)
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A scientist stands beside the Kwangmyongsong-3 application satellite, to be put onto the Unha-3 (Milky Way 3) rocket at the West Sea Satellite Launch Site, during a guided media tour by North Korean authorities in the northwest of Pyongyang April 8, 2012. REUTERS/Bobby Yip (NORTH KOREA - Tags: POLITICS MILITARY SCIENCE TECHNOLOGY)
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The paper likened the aircraft carrier to a "gross animal" and said a strike on it would be "an actual example to show our military's force".

The commentary was carried on page three of the newspaper, after a two-page feature about leader Kim Jong Un inspecting a pig farm.

North Korea will mark the 85th anniversary of the foundation of its Korean People's Army on Tuesday.

It has in the past marked important anniversaries with tests of its weapons.

North Korea has conducted five nuclear tests, two of them last year, and is working to develop nuclear-tipped missiles that can reach the United States.

It has also carried out a series of ballistic missile tests in defiance of United Nations sanctions.

North Korea's growing nuclear and missile threat is perhaps the most serious security challenge confronting Trump.

He has vowed to prevent the North from being able to hit the United States with a nuclear missile and has said all options are on the table, including a military strike.

WORRY IN JAPAN

North Korea says its nuclear program is for self-defense and has warned the United States of a nuclear attack in response to any aggression. It has also threatened to lay waste to South Korea and Japan.

U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said on Friday North Korea's recent statements were provocative but had proven to be hollow in the past and should not be trusted.

"We've all come to hear their words repeatedly, their word has not proven honest," Mattis told a news conference in Tel Aviv, before the latest threat to the aircraft carrier.

Japan's show of naval force reflects growing concern that North Korea could strike it with nuclear or chemical warheads.

Some Japanese ruling party lawmakers are urging Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to acquire strike weapons that could hit North Korean missile forces before any imminent attack.

Japan's navy, which is mostly a destroyer fleet, is the second largest in Asia after China's.

The two Japanese warships, the Samidare and Ashigara, left western Japan on Friday to join the Carl Vinson and will "practice a variety of tactics" with the U.S. strike group, the Japan Maritime Self Defence Force said in a statement.

The Japanese force did not specify where the exercises were taking place but by Sunday the destroyers could have reached an area 2,500 km (1,500 miles) south of Japan, which would be waters east of the Philippines.

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A girl salutes to visitors before a show at the Mangyongdae Children's Palace in central Pyongyang, North Korea May 5, 2016. Pyongyang held a gala of song and dance performances by local school children on May 5 for visiting delegations of foreign journalists and tourists at the Mangyongdae Children's Palace. The event included orchestral, choir, and acrobatic performances, many of them with political undertones. The Seventh Worker's Party Congress commences on May 6, 2016. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj SEARCH "DAMIR CHILDREN" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Spectators wait for the beginning of a performance at the Mangyongdae Children's Palace in Pyongyang, North Korea May 5, 2016. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj
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A member of staff looks from the balcony inside the Mangyongdae Children's Palace in central Pyongyang, North Korea May 5, 2016. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Girls practice dancing at the Mangyongdae Children's Palace in central Pyongyang, North Korea May 5, 2016. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Girls play guitars at the Mangyongdae Children's Palace in central Pyongyang, North Korea May 5, 2016. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Children wave to spectators as the curtain is brought down at the end of a performance at the Mangyongdae Children's Palace in Pyongyang, North Korea May 5, 2016. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj
Girls are wheeled on a sliding platform to the stage at the Mangyongdae Children's Palace in Pyongyang, North Korea May 5, 2016. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj
A girl plays the guitar at the Mangyongdae Children's Palace in Pyongyang, North Korea May 5, 2016. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj
Spectators watch a performance at the Mangyongdae Children's Palace in Pyongyang, North Korea May 5, 2016. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj
Students practice dance at the Mangyongdae Children's Palace in Pyongyang, North Korea May 5, 2016. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj
A member of staff and spectators watch a performance at the Mangyongdae Children's Palace in Pyongyang, North Korea May 5, 2016. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj
Spectators watch a performance at the Mangyongdae Children's Palace in central Pyongyang, North Korea May 5, 2016. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj
Students draw at the Mangyongdae Children's Palace in Pyongyang, North Korea May 5, 2016. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj
Children acknowledge the audience after performing on the stage of the Mangyongdae Children's Palace in central Pyongyang, North Korea May 5, 2016. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj
A teacher gives instructions to a student practicing dance at the Mangyongdae Children's Palace in Pyongyang, North Korea May 5, 2016. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj
A member of staff looks from the balcony inside the Mangyongdae Children's Palace in central Pyongyang, North Korea May 5, 2016. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj
A rocket is projected on the screen as girls perform at the Mangyongdae Children's Palace in Pyongyang, North Korea May 5, 2016. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj
Spectators wait for the beginning of a performance at the Mangyongdae Children's Palace in central Pyongyang, North Korea May 5, 2016. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj
Girls perform on the stage of the Mangyongdae Children's Palace in central Pyongyang, North Korea May 5, 2016. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj
A model of a rocket is placed inside the Mangyongdae Children's Palace in central Pyongyang, North Korea May 5, 2016. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj
Spectators clap hands during a performance at the Mangyongdae Children's Palace in central Pyongyang, North Korea May 5, 2016. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj
A guide leads visitors towards the Mangyongdae Children's Palace decorated with pictures of former North Korean leaders Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il in central Pyongyang, North Korea May 5, 2016. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj
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From there, it could take three days to reach waters off the Korean peninsula. Japan's ships would accompany the Carl Vinson north at least into the East China Sea, a source with knowledge of the plan said.

U.S. and South Korean officials have been saying for weeks that the North could soon stage another nuclear test, something the United States, China and others have warned against.

South Korea has put is forces on heightened alert.

China, North Korea's sole major ally which nevertheless opposes Pyongyang's weapons programs and belligerence, has appealed for calm. The United States has called on China to do more to help defuse the tension.

Last Thursday, Trump praised Chinese efforts to rein in "the menace of North Korea", after North Korean state media warned the United States of a "super-mighty preemptive strike".

(Additional reporting by Tim Kelly in TOKYO; Editing by Robert Birsel)

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