US says North Korea's weapons of mass destruction programme violates UN resolutions

A missile is launched during a military drill in North Korea, in this May 10, 2019, photo.
A missile is launched during a military drill in North Korea, in this May 10, 2019, photo.PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - North Korea's entire weapons of mass destruction programme violates United Nations Security Council resolutions, the US State Department spokesman said on Tuesday (May 28), when asked about recent missile launches by Pyongyang.

"I think the entire North Korean WMD programme, it's in conflict with the UN Security Council resolutions. But what the US is focused on here... is in trying to negotiate a peaceful end to the North Korean WMD programme," State Department spokesman Morgan Ortagus told reporters.

Ms Ortagus had been asked to make clear the State Department's position after United States President Donald Trump appeared to contradict his national security adviser, Mr John Bolton, over whether North Korean launches this month had violated UN resolutions.

Mr Bolton said last Saturday there was "no doubt" that the launches had violated UN resolutions, as they had included short-range ballistic missiles.

Ms Ortagus said the State Department had yet to share publicly its assessment of whether the launches had involved ballistic missiles. However, the Pentagon said on May 9 that launches by North Korea that day consisted of multiple ballistic missiles that flew in excess of 300km.

During a visit to Japan on Monday, Mr Trump alluded to Mr Bolton's views and said he disagreed.

"My people think it could have been a violation... I view it differently," Mr Trump said, adding that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un had perhaps wanted "to get attention".

 
 
 

Mr Trump stressed that there had been "no nuclear tests, no ballistic missiles going out, no long-range missiles going out" and added that one day there could be a deal with North Korea to end its nuclear programme.

Asked whether Secretary of State Mike Pompeo agreed with Mr Trump or Mr Bolton, Ms Ortagus said: "I don't think it was lost on any of us that the launches were an attempt to send a message to the administration."

She added that the US wanted denuclearisation talks with North Korea to continue.

"That's our focus here," she said.

After two failed summits between Mr Kim and Mr Trump in the past year, North Korea test fired several rockets and missiles this month, including several guided missiles that experts said could be used to penetrate South Korean and US defences in the region.

The missiles flew on a flattened, lower-altitude trajectory, leading some officials in South Korea to question whether they should be categorised as "ballistic missiles" and therefore a violation of UN resolutions.

In a statement on Monday, North Korea denounced Mr Bolton as "more than ignorant" and said giving up missile tests would mean giving up the right to self-defence, and that "whatever is launched is bound to fly drawing a ballistic trajectory".