Japan PM: NKorea may be capable of sarin-loaded missiles

South Korea has also stepped up its military preparations and is calling for closer cooperation and intelligence sharing betwen the United States and Seoul.

Satellite images taken Wednesday from North Korea show increased activity at the nations nuclear test site, according to to US -based monitoring group, 38 North.

China's Special Representative for Korean Peninsula Affairs Wu Dawei has been on a four-day visit to South Korea.

After North Korea's third nuclear test in 2013, the most talked-about term on South Korean web portals and social media networks was "Innisfree", a popular cosmetics brand which had just announced big discounts. "He was a bully, but once he became a president, I realized he is going to be for my country".

But indication from State Department Officials suggest that the White House were preparing for a scenario where help from China was unlikely.

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Japan began working on plans to respond to a potential crisis on the Korean peninsula in February, after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe met Trump at a summit in the United States, Kyodo news agency said.

While much attention is paid to Pyongyang's threats of striking the U.S. mainland with intercontinental ballistic missiles, South Korea and Japan are the most at risk of North Korean attack.

"There has been no unusual activity so far", said Roh Jae-chun, a spokesman for the country's joint chiefs of staff. "There is a possibility that North Korea already has a capability to put sarin on warheads to strike the ground", he said. Restricting economic measures may also be applied against North Korea itself.

And when North Korea shelled the South Korean border island of Yeonpyeong in 2010, some South Koreans stocked up on dried food and canned goods, fearing the skirmish could escalate into a full-blown war. However, in recent months, even Beijing has expressed its wariness at the antics of the hermit kingdom. He added that if China doesn't do its part to rein in Pyongyang's nuclear ambitions, the USA can handle it.

Time was critical, Bolton explained, following eight years of the previous administration of former President Barack Obama, which had a strategy of "strategic patience, which is really a synonym for doing nothing".

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