April 19, 2017 / 4:41 PM / 4 months ago

France says pressure needed to stop North Korea crossing next nuclear hurdle

France's Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault arrives to attend a bilateral meeting during a G7 for foreign ministers in Lucca, Italy April 10, 2017.Max Rossi

PARIS (Reuters) - France said on Wednesday it was imperative the United Nations Security Council apply more pressure on North Korea to prevent it jumping another hurdle towards an effective nuclear weapons capacity that could lead to a dangerous military escalation.

Amid heightened tension on the Korean peninsula, North Korea has escalated a war of words with the United States, warning of full-out nuclear war if Washington takes military action against it over its nuclear and missile ambitions.

"We have to avoid all military escalation," Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault told LCP television. "This threatens nuclear proliferation in the region, but also directly threatens North America. It's a major danger."

Ayrault, who was in China last week and whose country has no diplomatic representation in North Korea, said it appeared that Beijing was increasingly worried by the behaviour of its neighbour.

"China is scared of chaos and destabilisation of the regime that would result in millions of refugees in the region so we can make progress through international pressure ... sanctions and discussions between the Security Council members to take measures," he said.

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence said on Wednesday that Washington would work with its allies and China to put economic and diplomatic pressure on North Korea but added that America would defeat any attack with an "overwhelming response".

"There is no time to lose because all of the money North Korea has is being used for nuclear investment and research which would enable the country to jump another hurdle," he said.

Reporting by John Irish; Editing by Andrew Callus

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