Sanctions won't halt nuclear programme: North Korean envoy

GENEVA • North Korea has nothing to fear from any US move to broaden sanctions aimed at cutting it off from the global financial system and will pursue "acceleration" of its nuclear and missile programmes, a North Korean envoy told Reuters.

This includes developing a "pre-emptive first strike capability" and an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), said Mr Choe Myong Nam, deputy ambassador at the North Korean mission to the United Nations in Geneva.

"Even prohibition of the international transactions system, the global financial system, this kind of thing is part of their system that will not frighten us or make any difference."

He called existing sanctions "heinous and inhumane".

North Korea has been under sanctions for "half a century" but the communist state survives by placing an emphasis on juche, or "self-sufficiency", he said. His country wants a forum set up to examine the "legality and legitimacy of the sanctions regime".

He denounced ongoing joint annual military exercises being carried out by the US and South Korea on the divided peninsula and criticised remarks by US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson during his talks with regional allies last week.

"All he was talking about is for the United States to take military actions on DPRK," Mr Choe said, using the acronym for the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

Mr Choe declined to give technical details of North Korea's rocket engine test on Sunday - seen as a possible prelude to a partial ICBM flight - calling it a great historical event that would lead to "fruitful outcomes".

"I can tell you for sure that the intercontinental ballistic rockets of the DPRK will be launched at any time and at any place as decided by our Supreme Leadership," Mr Choe said, recalling leader Kim Jong Un's pledge in a New Year's address.

Meanwhile, North Korea's state media announced that the reclusive country will hold a rare parliamentary session on April 11, which marks the fifth anniversary of Mr Kim's appointment as the chairman of the ruling Workers' Party of Korea.

North Korea will also mark the 105th birth anniversary of founder Kim Il Sung on April 15.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 23, 2017, with the headline 'Sanctions won't halt nuclear programme: North Korean envoy'. Print Edition | Subscribe