North Korea has bluntly warned Australia of a possible nuclear strike if Canberra persists in "blindly and zealously toeing the US line".
North Korea's state new agency (KCNA) yesterday quoted a foreign ministry spokesman castigating Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop after she "spouted a string of rubbish" against the Democratic Peoples' Republic of Korea (DPRK).
"If Australia persists in following the US moves to isolate and stifle the DPRK and remains a shock brigade of the US master, this will be a suicidal act of coming within the range of the nuclear strike of the strategic force of the DPRK," the report said.
"The Australian foreign minister had better think twice about the consequences to be entailed by her reckless tongue-lashing before flattering the US." Earlier this week Bishop said on the ABC's AM programme that North Korea's nuclear weapons programme posed a "serious threat" to Australia unless it was stopped by the international community.
The KCNA report said that what Bishop had said "can never be pardoned" as it was "an act against peace" and North Korea's "entirely just steps for self defence".
It said Australia was shielding a hostile US policy of nuclear threats and blackmail against North Korea which was the root cause of the current crisis on the Korean Peninsula and encouraged the US to opt for "reckless and risky military actions".
"The present government of Australia is blindly and zealously toeing the US line." The report said the situation on the Korean Peninsula was "inching close to the brink of war in an evil cycle of increasing tensions".
US Vice-President Mike Pence is in Australia and the threat of North Korea's nuclear weapons and missiles programs were high on the agenda in talks with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.
Pence would not rule out the use of military force in North Korea but said "all options are on the table" and he stressed the US was focused on diplomacy at this stage.
He continued the pressure on the rogue state during his visit saying the US supercarrier Carl Vinson will arrive in the Sea of Japan in days, after the mixed messages from Washington over the warship's whereabouts.
The strike group was supposedly steaming towards North Korea last week amid soaring tensions over the rogue state's apparent ramping up for a sixth nuclear test, with Pyongyang threatening to hit back at any provocation.
But the US Navy, which had earlier said the aircraft carrier would sail north from waters off Singapore as a "prudent measure" to deter the regime, admitted on Tuesday the ships were in fact sent away from Singapore and towards Australia to conduct drills with the Australian navy.
The aircraft carrier will arrive "in a matter of days", Pence said.