Kim Jong-un praises ‘perfect success’ of North Korea’s latest nuclear test as UN prepares to vote on tough new sanctions
Pyongyang held a weekend display of pageantry to celebrate the latest and largest advancement in its controversial weapons programme
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un praised the “perfect success” of the country’s sixth and largest nuclear test and urged further weapons development, state media reported amid a US drive for tough new sanctions.
Pyongyang held a banquet, concert and performances in a weekend display of pageantry to celebrate the September 3 nuclear test, which the North said was a hydrogen bomb that could be fitted onto a rocket.
The blast, which came weeks after the country fired off two intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) that appeared to bring much of mainland United States into range, prompted global condemnation and calls to ramp up sanctions against the isolated nation.
But the North’s leader appeared deaf to the international outrage and hailed the “perfect success in the test of H-bomb” during a dinner to congratulate the scientists and technicians behind the nuclear programme, the official Korean Central News Agency said on Sunday.
Dubbing the latest test the “great auspicious event of the national history”, he called for “redoubled efforts” to complete the country’s mission to become a recognised nuclear power.
A two-page spread in the North’s official Rodong Sinmun newspaper showed photos of Kim and his wife Ri Sol-ju attending the special concert and dinner.
A slew of brazen tests in recent months, which contravene existing UN sanctions, has sparked surging tensions over the North Korean weapons programme.
Pyongyang says it needs nuclear arms to protect itself, but the US has accused the isolated nation of “begging for war”.
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres told French newspaper Le Journal du Dimanche that the showdown over North Korea’s nuclear and missile programme was the world’s worst crisis “in years”, and had left him deeply worried.
Watch: US accuses North Korea of ‘begging for war’
“We have to hope that the seriousness of this threat puts us on the path of reason before it is too late,” he said.
He also called for unity in the UN Security Council, which is set to consider a new draft resolution presented by Washington in recent days that would be the toughest ever imposed on North Korea.
The US is calling for an oil embargo on the North, an assets freeze on Kim Jong-un, a ban on textiles and an end to payments of North Korean guest workers.
It is hoping for a Monday vote, however, both China and Russia are thought to have raised opposition to the measures.
In a statement published by the official KCNA news agency on Monday, North Korea’s foreign ministry warned Washington that if it did “rig up the illegal and unlawful ‘resolution’ on harsher sanctions, the DPRK shall make absolutely sure that the US pays due price”.
“The forthcoming measures to be taken by the DPRK will cause the US the greatest pain and suffering it had ever gone through in its entire history,” the ministry said, using the abbreviation for North Korea’s formal name.
“The world will witness how the DPRK tames the US gangsters by taking (a) series of action tougher than they have ever envisaged.”
Japan has backed the harsher sanctions proposed by the US, saying Kim’s nuclear programme poses the most serious threat since the second world war.
Defence Minister Itsunori Onodera on Sunday urged tougher sanctions on North Korea and warned that the regime’s advances in missile technology are complicating Japan’s ability to intercept them.
“Japan’s security environment including North Korea is increasingly grave – perhaps it’s the most serious state in the post-war period,” Onodera told public broadcaster NHK. “If North Korea-bound oil, mainly coming from China, decreases through pressure by the international community, it will be difficult for North Korea to operate its missile brigades.”
Nato Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg also expressed concern at North Korea’s nuclear and missile programme, saying it represented a “global threat and requires a global response”.
“The reckless behaviour of North Korea is a global threat and requires a global response, and that of course also includes Nato,” Stoltenberg told BBC.
“We call on Korea to abandon its nuclear programmes, it’s missile programmes and to refrain from more testing because this is a blatant violation of several UN security resolutions and it’s a threat to international peace and stability.”
Asked whether a strike against Guam would be covered under the clause that commits Nato members to come to the defence of each other, he said: “I will not speculate about whether Article Five will be applied in such a situation.
“What I will say is we are now totally focused on how can we contribute to a peaceful solution of the conflict.”
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, meanwhile, has said the country would lend its weight to a diplomatic push to end North Korean nuclear weapons and missile development along the lines of a past deal with Iran.
“I would say yes immediately if we were asked to join talks,” Merkel told Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung.
Talks between Iran and six world powers led to a 2015 deal for Tehran to roll back its nuclear programme and submit to inspections in exchange for some sanctions being rolled back. Merkel said they were “a long but important period of diplomacy” that had achieved a “good end”.
“I could imagine such a format for the settlement of the North Korea conflict. Europe and especially Germany ought to be ready to make a very active contribution,” Merkel said.
The chancellor said she had held telephone talks with the leaders of France, the United States, China, South Korea and Japan about the North Korea crisis over the past week, and is expected to speak with Russian President Vladimir Putin Monday.
Additional reporting by Bloomberg