The U.S. is ready to use conventional weapons in a preemptive strike should the Trump administration believe North Korea will follow through with a nuclear weapons test this weekend, American intelligence officials said Thursday.
"It's high stakes," a top official told NBC News. "We are trying to communicate our level of concern and the existence of many military options to dissuade the North first.
"It's a feat that we've never achieved before, but there is a new sense of resolve here," the official said.
The Pentagon declined to comment, saying, as a policy, it does not discuss future operations "nor publicly speculate on possible scenarios."
"Commanders are always considering a full range of options to protect against any contingencies," Dana White, a Pentagon spokeswoman, said in a statement. Reuters had queried the Pentagon about the report.
"Our commitment to the defense of our allies, including the Republic of Korea and Japan, in the face of potential threats, remains steadfast."
U.S. has positioned two Navy destroyers capable of firing Tomahawk cruise missiles in the region, one just 300 miles from the North Korean nuclear test site, according to the report.
In addition, heavy U.S. bombers are also positioned in Guam to strike Pyongyang if necessary, the officials said.
The U.S. could be headed into a showdown with North Korea on Saturday, as the country marks the 105th birthday of its founder, Kim Il-sung.
Dictator Kim Jong Un reportedly plans to celebrate the occasion by firing a ballistic missile or testing a nuclear device.
North Korea said Wednesday it would "hit the U.S. first" with a nuclear weapon in response to any sign of an American strike.
North Korea warned Thursday of a "merciless retaliatory strike" amid any U.S. action.
"By relentlessly bringing in a number of strategic nuclear assets to the Korean peninsula, the U.S. is gravely threatening the peace and safety and driving the situation to the brink of a nuclear war," Kim's government said in a statement.
North Korea is not believed to have a deliverable long-range nuclear weapon, U.S. experts tell NBC, nor does it yet possess an intercontinental missile.
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