North Korea says Syria airstrikes prove its nukes justified

The US missile strike on Syria contained a clear message for North Korea and its main ally China, analysts said, but not one strong enough to push Pyongyang off its nuclear weapons path.

Meantime, the removal of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is a priority for Donald Trump, says the US Ambassador to the UN. It claims its nuclear weapons are a necessary deterrent to the US military threat.

Kim Yong-Hyun, a professor at Dongguk University, said the strike against Syria was a statement of intent that was meant for a wide readership.

"The leaders agreed that Bashar al-Assad's use of chemical weapons against civilians, including women and children, was abhorrent and warranted a strong response from the worldwide community", said a White House statement about the phone calls released Sunday.

The North called the airstrikes "absolutely unpardonable" and said they prove its nuclear weapons are justified to protect the country against Washington's "evermore reckless moves for a war".

Reuters was first to report on Saturday that the Navy strike group Carl Vinson, whose flagship is a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier of that name, will make its way toward the Korean peninsula from Singapore as a show of force after Pyongyang tested a liquid-fueled Scud missile this month.

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New air strikes have targeted the town in Syria devastated by the chemical attack, with Russian planes believed to be responsible.

The North has carried out five nuclear tests - two of them previous year - and expert satellite imagery analysis suggests it could well be preparing for a sixth.

If Thursday's strike was a warning to other countries, it was one with which Pyongyang, which regularly cites U.S. hostility as the driving force behind its nuclear weapons development, is quite familiar.

Kim Jong-un has said North Korea is on the "brink of war" with America in response to growing tensions between the two countries.

At the time of the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, then North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il disappeared from public view for around six weeks - and was widely believed to have gone into hiding for fear of a United States attack.

Cheong Seong-chang, a senior research fellow at Sejong Institute outside Seoul, said that could come in the form of another nuclear or ICBM test after the summit.

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"Armed with nuclear weapons, he would hardly flinch at the attack in Syria", Chang said.

Russian news agency TASS said the ship had recently taken part in a joint exercise with Turkish ships and was bound for the Syrian port of Tartus on a routine voyage.

As the leaders of China and the United States sit down for a summit on Thursday, North Korea has made sure it also has something on the negotiating table: A nuclear-tipped bargaining chip.

But according to one White House official, Trump is not ruling anything out when it comes to dealing with Pyongyang.

"They have been doing so many test launches last year and this year to develop systems to transport nuclear warheads", said Kim Dong-yub, a professor at Kyungnam University's Institute of Far Eastern Studies in Seoul.

"A small kick could provoke big disasters".

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