North Korea says it is ready to teach US ‘severe lesson’
Statement says missile tests in July proved entire United States was in its firing range
North Korea is ready to give the United States a “severe lesson” with its strategic nuclear force, if it takes military action against it, and will not put its nuclear programme or its missiles on the negotiating table, it said in a statement to a regional meeting on Monday.
In a transcript of a statement by foreign minister Ri Yong-ho, which was distributed to media in Manila, Pyongyang called new UN sanctions “fabricated” and warned there would be “strong follow-up measures” and acts of justice. It said the resolution showed the United Nations had abused its authority.
It said its intercontinental ballistic missile tests in July proved that the entire United States was in its firing range, and those missiles were a legitimate means of self-defence.
South Korean president Moon Jae-in and US president Donald Trump agreed on Monday to apply maximum pressure on North Korea, while China said it was hopeful of contacts between Pyongyang and Seoul and urged the US to curb its “unwarranted moral superiority”.
The UN Security Council unanimously imposed new sanctions on North Korea on Saturday following its latest round of missile tests. The sanctions step up the pressure on Pyongyang to end its nuclear programme and could significantly reduce the North’s €2.55 billion annual revenues from exports and access to hard currency.
Mr Moon and Mr Trump had a 56-minute telephone conversation on Monday during which the US leader expressed interest in Seoul’s recent offer for Pyongyang to hold inter-Korean dialogue, according to government spokesman Park Soo-hyun.
“President Moon and president Trump shared concerns over North Korea’s evolving nuclear capabilities, and agreed their countries must put maximum pressure and sanctions on North Korea under cooperation with the international community to have North Korea give up its nuclear and missile programmes, and choose the right path,” said Mr Park.
Mr Trump later tweeted enthusiastically about their conversation.
“Just completed call with president Moon of South Korea. Very happy and impressed with 15-0 United Nations vote on North Korea sanctions,” he wrote.
China is North Korea’s biggest trade partner, and while it has backed sanctions and is angry at the North Korean nuclear programme bringing global tensions to its doorstep, it has called for dialogue to resolve the crisis.
“We support the positive proposals put forward by the new (South Korean) government. We are ready to see the North and South resume contacts soon,” foreign minister Wang Yi said at a regional security forum in Manila.
Beijing is especially opposed to any solution that could lead to regime change in the North, as it could clear the way for a South Korean and US leadership there.
It also wants to avoid sanctions causing economic collapse, which could trigger millions of refugees arriving at its border.
A stinging editorial in the English-language edition of the Global Times newspaper, which is published by the People’s Daily and functions as a barometer of official opinion in China, took aim at Western “unwarranted moral superiority”.
“The West should be reminded to exercise restraint. If it believes it is only North Korea rather than the US and South Korea as well to blame for the nuclear issue, this ill-fitting mindset will not help solve the crisis,” it said. “The US should aim for peace and co-existence rather than geopolitical dominance.”
The support of China and Russia for the latest round of sanctions sent a strong message to North Korea about what was expected of it, US secretary of state Rex Tillerson said at the same forum in the Philippines.
“When the conditions are right then we can sit and have a dialogue around the future of North Korea so they feel secure and prosper economically,” he said.