N Korea’s hydrogen bomb threat should be taken ‘literally’– diplomat

Sabre-rattling intensifies ahead of Trump’s visit to Asia in early November

Kim Jong-un visits the Command of the Strategic Force of the Korean People’s Army in an unknown location in this undated photo released  by North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency. File photograph: KCNA via Reuters

Kim Jong-un visits the Command of the Strategic Force of the Korean People’s Army in an unknown location in this undated photo released by North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency. File photograph: KCNA via Reuters

 

Kim Jong-un’s threat to test a powerful atomic weapon over the Pacific Ocean should be taken “literally”, North Korea’s top diplomat said.

North Korea’s foreign minister Ri Yong-ho told the UN General Assembly that the North would test a hydrogen bomb over the Pacific.

In the latest salvo in a tense war of words over Pyongyang’s nuclear programme, a top North Korean official said this threat was real.

“The foreign minister is very well aware of the intentions of our supreme leader,” Ri Yong-pil, the deputy head of a North Korean foreign ministry think tank – the Institute for American Studies, told CNN in an interview. “So I think you should take his words literally … (North Korea) has always brought its words into action.”

North Korea has been sanctioned by the international community for its nuclear programme. It is trying to develop a missile capable of dropping a nuclear warhead onto the mainland US.

In July it staged two intercontinental ballistic missile tests, and in September, it conducted its sixth and most powerful nuclear test, which it claims was a hydrogen bomb, although that has not been confirmed.

US president Donald Trump will travel to South Korea, China, Japan and Vietnam for his first Asian trip in early November. He has threatened to “totally destroy” North Korea if necessary, which Mr Ri has taken as evidence that the US was not interested in diplomacy.

“The US is talking about a military option and even practicing military moves,” Mr Ri said, referring to ongoing joint military exercises with South Korea. “They’re pressuring us on all fronts with sanctions. If you think this will lead to diplomacy, you’re deeply mistaken.”

Against this backdrop of increasingly militant rhetoric, Mr Trump is not expected to visit the demilitarised zone (DMZ) dividing the Korean Peninsula since the end of hostilities in the Korean War (1950-53), but he left the question open this week.

Asked if he would visit the DMZ, he said: “I’d rather not say, but you’ll be surprised.”

Further complicating the issue is the role of China. Mr Kim sent a message to Chinese president Xi Jinping after he was re-elected as head of the Communist Party and had his ideology enshrined in the constitution.

North Korea and China are long-time allies and Beijing supported the North against the US during the Korean War. However, ties have become strained as China is opposed to the North’s nuclear programme as it causes tensions in the region, and it has voted on the UN Security Council to sanction North Korea.

According to the KCNA news agency, Mr Kim’s message “expressed the conviction that the relations between the two parties and the two countries would develop in the interests of the peoples of the two countries.”

The message was shorter than the one sent in 2012, the Yonhap news agency reported, and did not include a reference the two nations’ traditional ties. – Additional reporting agencies