South Korean warships joined three US aircraft carriers Saturday in an unusually strong display of naval force aimed at North Korea, whose nuclear ambitions have been a focus of US President Donald Trump's ongoing tour of Asia.
President Donald Trump fired back at North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on Twitter Sunday by sarcastically saying that he would never call him "short and fat" after the dictator said that Trump was an "old" person.
In a visit to Missouri Southern State University on Friday, South Korean Jong-Kook Lee, consul general of the Republic of Korea in Chicago, called the threat of nuclear conflict and heightening tensions with North Korea and the United States "regrettable", but "reality".
"I say to the North: Do not underestimate us, and do not try us", he said.
During his trip to Asia, Trump attempted a symbolic stare-down of Kim this week at the heavily fortified border that separates North and South Korea.
Trump's tweet was part of a series of tweets that included China's plan of "upping the sanctions" against North Korea and how Chinese President Xi Jinping wants to "denuclearize" the country.
"Every step you take down this dark path increases the peril you face".
"Reckless remarks by an old lunatic like Trump will never scare us or stop our advance", the North's Foreign Ministry said in a statement. "On the contrary, all this makes us more sure that our choice to promote economic construction at the same time as building up our nuclear force is all the more righteous, and it pushes us to speed up the effort to complete our nuclear force".
Addressing a press conference later, Trump declared his belief that it was possible for the two leaders to be "friends".
"That might be a unusual thing to happen but it's a possibility", he said.
Kim's regime has continued to carry out nuclear and ballistic missile tests despite widespread worldwide condemnation and a series of crippling sanctions aimed at strangling the state's cash sources.
"The exercise is aimed at enhancing deterrence against North Korea's nuclear and missile threats and showing off preparedness to fend off any provocative acts by the North", a ministry spokesman said.
North Korea conducted its sixth and most powerful nuclear bomb test on September 3, prompting another round of United Nations sanctions.