US may launch strike if North Korea moves to test nuclear weapon: report

The U.S. is reportedly ready to launch a preemptive strike against North Korea if officials believe Pyongyang is going to go through with a nuclear weapons test.

Citing multiple senior U.S. intelligence officials, NBC News reported Thursday that the U.S. is prepared to launch the strike against North Korea with conventional weapons.

Officials said a nuclear test could come as soon as this weekend, according to NBC.

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The U.S. has two destroyers that can shoot Tomahawk cruise missiles in the area, according to the network. One of the destroyers is located 300 miles from the North Korean nuclear test site.

There are also American heavy bombers located in Guam. Earlier this week, it was reported that the USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier strike group was headed to that area.

But the NBC report sparked pushback from sources reported by other journalists: 

In a statement Thursday, North Korea issued a warning to the U.S. — should it take action — of a "merciless retaliatory strike."

"By relentlessly bringing in a number of strategic nuclear assets to the Korean peninsula, the US is gravely threatening the peace and safety and driving the situation to the brink of a nuclear war," North Korea's statement said.

U.S. officials said any strike would require South Korea's permission. 

South Korea Foreign Minister Yun Byung said U.S. officials have "repeatedly reaffirmed that" the U.S. "will closely discuss with South Korea its North Korea-related measures."

"In fact, the U.S. is working to reassure us that it will not, just in case that we might hold such concerns."

President Trump on Thursday tweeted that he has "great confidence that China will properly deal with North Korea." 

"If they are unable to do so, the U.S., with its allies, will! U.S.A.," the president tweeted.

Updated: 8:19 p.m.