Pyongyang rejects UN statement on missile test

UNITED NATIONS • North Korea yesterday rejected the United Nations Security Council's statement on its weekend missile launch, and declared that all its tests were "self-defence measures" designed to protect its people.

The council had on Monday denounced the missile launch, urging members to "redouble efforts" to enforce sanctions against the reclusive North, but gave no indications of any action it might take.

Mr Han Tae Song, the new North Korean Ambassador to the UN in Geneva, addressed the Conference on Disarmament a day after taking up his post.

The tests were held for "building up self-defence capabilities" and were "with no exception, self-defence measures to protect national sovereignty and the safety of the people against direct threats by hostile forces", Mr Han told the 61-member state forum.

"The successful test launch of a medium- to long-range missile on Feb 12 is a part of self-defence measures," he said.

"In this respect, my delegation strongly rejects the latest statement of the UN Security Council and all UN resolutions against my country."

In New York, US Ambassador Nikki Haley said in a statement after the Security Council meeting that it was "time to hold North Korea accountable" with "actions".

US, Japanese and South Korean military officials held a teleconference on Monday, in which they condemned the launch as "a clear violation" of multiple Security Council resolutions.

The United States "reaffirmed its ironclad security commitments" to South Korea and Japan, the Pentagon said.

A South Korean official said the US planned to deploy "strategic assets" in its upcoming annual military exercises with South Korea next month, because of the increased threat from the North.

The official did not say what assets might be used.

Mr Han said the divided Korean peninsula "remains the world's biggest hot spot with a constant danger of war".

He condemned the joint military exercises, as well as what he called "nuclear threats" and blackmail towards his country.

"It is the legitimate self-defence right of the sovereign state to possess strong deterrence to cope with such threat by hostile forces aimed at overthrowing the state and the socialist system," he said.

At a news conference on Monday, US President Donald Trump said: "Obviously North Korea is a big, big problem and we will deal with that very strongly."

South Korea's intelligence agency estimates that the solid-fuel missile launched by North Korea on Sunday has a range of more than 2,000km, according to a lawmaker briefed by the agency.

That would bring large parts of mainland China, Taiwan, Japan and Russia within range.

North Korea has tested missiles with a range of over 3,000km in the past.

It has said it is on the verge of testing an intercontinental ballistic missile, which could eventually threaten the continental US, about 9,000km away.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said on Monday that he expected the Trump administration to adopt a harder line on North Korea.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 15, 2017, with the headline ''. Print Edition | Subscribe