GENEVA (Reuters) - North Korea accused the United States on Tuesday of driving the Korean peninsula towards “an extreme level of explosion” and declared that it was justified in responding with “tough counter-measures”.
The combative statement came hours North Korea fired a ballistic missile over Japan’s northern Hokkaido island into the sea, drawing a sharp reaction from Japan, the United States, South Korea and other states.
Han Tae Song, North Korea’s ambassador to the U.N. in Geneva, did not explicitly refer to his country’s latest test. But he said U.S. “pressure and provocative acts” would only give his country grounds to take unspecified measures.
“It is an undeniable fact that the U.S. is driving the situation of the Korean peninsula towards an extreme level of explosion by deploying huge strategic assets around the peninsula, by conducting a series of nuclear war drills and maintaining nuclear freeze and blackmail for over half a century,” Han told the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva.
Fears have grown over North Korea’s development of missiles and nuclear weapons since Pyongyang test-launched intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) in July. Those fears worsened after Trump warned that North Korea would face “fire and fury” if it threatened the United States.
Joint U.S.-South Korea military drills, currently taking place on the peninsula, are part of “long-standing U.S. hostile policy” towards the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), Han said.
“Now that the U.S. has openly declared its hostile intention towards the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, by waging aggressive joint military exercises despite repeated warnings... my country has every reason to respond with tough counter-measures as an exercise of its right to self defence,” Han said.
“And the U.S. should be wholly responsible for the catastrophic consequences it will entail.”
U.S. disarmament ambassador Robert Wood, speaking to reporters, said that North Korea’s test was “another provocation” and “big concern” to be discussed by the U.N. Security Council later in the day.
“My country and I know a number of other countries are going to continue to demand that North Korea ends these provocative acts and take a different path,” Wood told the forum.
The United States has “an iron-clad commitment to its allies”, he added.
Both Wood and South Korea’s envoy Kim Inchul called for Pyongyang to resume talks on giving up its nuclear arsenal.
“Denuclearisation is the only way forward to guarantee security and economic viability instead of continuing with provocations which are unacceptable,” Kim said.
Japan’s envoy Nobushige Takamizawa condemned the missile test noting it also posed a danger to aviation and navigation.
Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; Editing by Robin Pomeroy