Rogue states such as Iran face tougher military action from America under Donald Trump, the director of the CIA has warned, as he said the US is “closer now than we have ever been” to the threat of nuclear missiles from North Korea.

Mike Pompeo urged Iran to “take note” that Donald Trump’s missile strikes against the Syrian military were a sign the White House was “prepared to engage in activities that are different from what America has been doing these past few years”.

His comments came as China warned that military conflict over North Korea’s nuclear weapon’s programme could break out “at any moment” as a stand off with the US approached breaking point.

Tension over the rogue state’s arsenal risks reaching an “irreversible and unmanageable stage” as a US aircraft carrier group steamed towards the region amid fears Pyongyang is on the verge of a nuclear weapons test that would trigger US retaliation.

Downing Street said it was monitoring the escalation and called on North Korea to abide by international rules.

It came as the United States had reportedly drawn up plans for a pre-emptive military strike against North Korea should it become convinced the rogue state is about to carry out a nuclear test.

That would be a conventional strike, potentially using Tomahawk cruise missiles, to hit North Korea’s nuclear test site, launched from US forces that have been massing in the area.

Kim Jong-un has vowed a “big event” to mark the “Day of the Sun,” the 105th anniversary of the birth of the nation’s founder, his grandfather Kim Il-sung. There was speculation that event could be North Korea’s sixth underground nuclear test.

The US has put two Navy destroyers, capable of firing Tomahawks nearby, with one of them only 300 miles from the nuclear test site, NBC News reported. There are also US Air Force bombers in Guam that could be used to target North Korea.

Earlier this week an aircraft carrier, the USS Carl Vinson, was sent to the area with its strike group, which President Donald Trump called an “armada”. The US could also deploy cyber attacks.

US special forces, including Navy Seals,  Delta Force and Green Berets, are already in South Korea for the annual Foal Eagle military exercise.

Senior defence officials have previously denied reports that Seal Team Six, which killed Osama bin Laden, was there rehearsing for a possible “decapitation strike” against Kim Jong-un.

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