North Korea accuses US of driving peninsula to 'explosion' as EU condemns missile launch
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.
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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.
Meanwhile the European Union's top diplomat condemned on Tuesday North Korea's missile launch over Japan, offering the bloc's support for any future talks but also warning of possible steps following meetings at the United Nations Security Council.
"We fully support calls for an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council today," the EU's foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said in a statement, saying the European Union will look at an "appropriate response in close consultation with key partners and in line with UN Security Council deliberations."
The European Union last toughened its economic sanctions on North Korea on Aug. 10.
Russia weighed in saying it insists North Korea abide by U.N. Security Council resolutions regarding its missile programme.
"Regarding the launching of the missiles from North Korea, we stick to the resolutions of the United Nations and we insist on the fact that the North Koreans must respect those resolutions from the United Nations," Lavrov told a news conference on a visit to the United Arab Emirates, according to a simultaneous translation of his remarks.
British Prime Minister Theresa May is outraged by North Korea's "reckless provocation" in carrying out missile tests, her spokeswoman said.
"The prime minister is outraged by North Korea's reckless provocation and she strongly condemns these illegal tests. From our perspective we will need to continue to work with our international partners to keep the pressure on North Korea," the spokeswoman told reporters.
May is travelling to Japan later on Tuesday and will have talks with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.