File photo: Pedro Ugarte.

The North Korean regime bristled at the presence of a US aircraft carrier in South Korea on Saturday, calling the move “gunboat diplomacy” and accusing the United States of “nuclear blackmail.”

Officials for the communist government threatened to bolster the country's controversial nuclear program in response to the arrival of aircraft carrier USS George Washington. “The US should properly understand that the more persistently it resorts to reckless nuclear blackmail and threat, the further North Korea will bolster up its cutting edge nuclear force for self-defence,” regime officials said, according to state news service KCNA.

The USS George Washington dropped anchor off the south-east coast of South Korea on Friday. According to news agency Yonhap, the ship is slated to take part in joint maritime training exercises from July 16 through July 21. It will also complete search and rescue exercises with the South Korean and Japanese naval forces.

The US regularly sends aircraft carriers to South Korea. North Korea characterizes such actions as a threat and provocation, which both the US and South Korea deny.