North Korea boasts, our rocket tests target the US

North Korea's Unha-3 rocket lifts off from the launchpad in Tongchang-ri on 12 December last year. More tests are planned. Picture: AP
North Korea's Unha-3 rocket lifts off from the launchpad in Tongchang-ri on 12 December last year. More tests are planned. Picture: AP
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NORTH Korea has said it will carry out further rocket launches and a nuclear test.

It also said the rockets were designed both to carry satellites and warheads to strike its “sworn enemy” the United States.

The announcement yesterday by the country’s top military body came a day after the United Nations Security Council agreed to a US-backed resolution to censure and sanction North Korea for a rocket launch in December that breached UN rules.

North Korea is not believed to have the technology to deliver a nuclear warhead capable of hitting the American mainland, although its December launch showed it had the capacity to deliver a rocket that could travel 6,200 miles, potentially putting San Francisco in range, according South Korean intelligence.

“We are not disguising the fact that the various satellites and long-range rockets that we will fire and the high-level nuclear test we will carry out are targeted at the US,” North Korea’s national defence commission said. “Settling accounts with the US needs to be done with force, not with words, as it regards jungle law as the rule of its survival,” it added.

North Korea is believed by South Korea and other observers to be “technically ready” for a third nuclear test, and the decision to go ahead rests with leader Kim Jong-un, who pressed ahead with the December launch in defiance of the UN sanctions. China, the isolated and impoverished North’s main ally, agreed to the US-backed resolution and it also supported resolutions in 2006 and 2009 after Pyongyang’s two earlier nuclear tests.

Yesterday’s statement by North Korea represents a huge challenge to Beijing as it undergoes a leadership transition, with Xi Jinping due to take office in March.

China’s foreign ministry called for calm and restraint and a return to six-party talks, but effectively singled out North Korea, urging the “relevant party” not to take any steps that would raise tensions.

“We hope the relevant party can remain calm and act and speak in a cautious and prudent way and not take any steps which may further worsen the situation,” ministry spokesman Hong Lei said.

North Korea has rejected proposals to restart the talks. The US, China, Russia, Japan and the two Koreas are the six parties involved.

“After all these years and numerous rounds of six-party talks we can see that China’s influence over North Korea is actually very limited. All China can do is try to persuade them not to carry out their threats,” said Cai Jian, an expert on Korea at Fudan University in Shanghai.