UK ‘concerned’ at new North Korea missile test amid growing tension

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The Government has said it is “concerned” by reports of a failed missile test by North Korea and is closely monitoring the situation.

The as yet unidentified missile exploded on launch from a base in Sinpo, a city on the country’s east coast, on Sunday, US military officials said.

A submarine-launched ballistic missile is displayed in Kim Il Sung Square during a military parade yesterday. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)

A submarine-launched ballistic missile is displayed in Kim Il Sung Square during a military parade yesterday. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)

Pyongyang’s latest provocation comes amid simmering tensions between the US and North Korea over the rogue state’s nuclear weapons programme.

International concern has been ratcheting up over the deteriorating situation, with China expressing fears war could break out “at any moment”.

On Saturday the regime gave a huge show of strength with a parade of military hardware feared to have featured a new type of intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).

Meanwhile the US has sent an aircraft carrier strike group to the Korean Peninsula, leading Pyongyang to accuse Donald Trump of “creating a war situation”.

North Korean men and women wave flags and plastic flowers as a float with model missiles and rockets with words that read "For Peace and Stability in the World" is paraded. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)

North Korean men and women wave flags and plastic flowers as a float with model missiles and rockets with words that read "For Peace and Stability in the World" is paraded. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)

The President has not commented on the test, although US Defence Secretary James Mattis said Mr Trump and his military advisers were “aware of North Korea’s most recent unsuccessful missile launch”.

America’s vice president, Mike Pence, is due to arrive in South Korea on Sunday to visit US troops, and the firing of a missile has been viewed as an attempt to send a message of defiance to Washington.

It is not known what kind of weapon was tested on Sunday, although Pyongyang has repeatedly stated its aim of developing a rocket that could drop a nuclear payload on the US mainland.

Despite the test being a failure it may still provide the regime’s scientists with valuable information for its weapons programme.

A Foreign Office spokesman said: “We are concerned by reports of a missile test by North Korea and are monitoring the situation closely.”

Earlier Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said of the situation that “we have been here before” and urged Pyongyang to adhere to UN resolutions in order to secure peace.

“We stand alongside our international partners in making clear that North Korea must adhere to UN resolutions designed to secure peace and stability in the region and stop its pursuit of nuclear weapons,” he said.

Despite UN sanctions North Korea launched a long-range rocket and carried out two nuclear tests in 2016, including its most powerful bomb to date.

There have also been a series of tests of shorter and mid-range rockets in recent years, with varying success.

Experts believe the North is yet to develop nuclear devices small enough to fit on ballistic missiles, a process called “miniaturisation”.

The regime is thought to have carried out its first nuclear test in 2006, with its scientists detonating five devices to date.

Mr Trump has accused North Korea of “looking for trouble” and recently ordered aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson and several war ships to the area to highlight American concern.

Fears that Pyongyang would carry out a sixth nuclear test rose before the celebrations for the 105th anniversary of the birth of the country’s founder, Kim Il Sung, on Saturday.

As well as a vast display of missiles, military hardware and personnel, the event saw the regime intensify its rhetoric against the US.

Choe Ryong Hae, widely regarded as the secretive state’s number two leading official, accused Mr Trump of “creating a war situation” on the Korean Peninsula by sending American forces to the region.

He said: “We will respond to an all-out war with an all-out war and a nuclear war with our style of a nuclear attack.”

China, North Korea’s only major ally, has called for calm, warning “conflict could break out at any moment” and that such a situation would bring no winners.

Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron said Prime Minister Theresa May and Mr Johnson needed to use what influence they had with Mr Trump to tell him that “aircraft carrier diplomacy” was not the answer.

“If Theresa May and Boris Johnson really do have any influence with their great friend in the White House they need to make clear that aircraft carrier diplomacy is not what the world needs.

“Where is Britain’s new global influence that Theresa May was boasting about? On Syria, Russia and now North Korea, the British Government has no influence, cut off from our partners in Europe thanks to their hard Brexit.”

As concern about the situation mounted, The Sunday Times reported that President Trump’s military advisers have assured the UK that America has the capability to neutralise North Korea’s nuclear programme using conventional weapons.

The newspaper said this could come in the form of a pre-emptive strike as it reported that US national security adviser General HR McMaster has told British security chiefs and military top brass that Washington has the intelligence to target key sites in the nuclear programme.

Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon has been briefed by his US equivalent General James Mattis on American options for dealing with North Korea in recent weeks, The Sunday Times said.

The Ministry of Defence told the Press Association it never comments on private conversations between Sir Michael and his international counterparts.