Less than a day after South Korean and US naval forces kicked off their latest round of joint military drills, which are slated to run until the end of the week, North Korea’s deputy UN ambassador claimed during a fiery speech at the UN General Assembly that the Korean peninsula “has reached the touch-and-go point and a nuclear war may break out any moment,” the Associated Press reported.
Complaining to the UN General Assembly’s disarmament committee, Kim In Ryong argued that North Korea is the only country in the world that has been subjected to “such an extreme and direct nuclear threat” from the United States since the 1970s, adding that the isolated North has the right to posses nuclear weapons in self-defense.
This latest warning arrives as the US and South Korea are bracing for another North Korean missile test. For weeks now, South Korean intelligence has suspected that its isolated neighbor could use the beginning of China’s National Party Congress, which begins on Thursday, as an opportunity for what would be a bold act of defiance, angering both the US and the North’s primary benefactor and only major ally, China. The North has also been threatening to unveil a new ICBM that intelligence services believe might be capable of striking the west coast.
During his speech, Kim accused the US and South Korea of conducting military exercises involving “nuclear assets” and also mentioned a top-secret plan to stage a “secret operation aimed at the removal of our supreme leadership” developed by US and South Korean intelligence. The plan was exposed after North Korean hackers stole a large cache of military documents from the South.
Boasting about the country’s nuclear capabilities, Kim bragged that the North Korea had completed its “state nuclear force and thus became the full-fledged nuclear power which possesses the delivery means of various ranges, including the atomic bomb, H-bomb and intercontinental ballistic rockets.”
“The entire U.S. mainland is within our firing range and if the U.S. dares to invade our sacred territory even an inch it will not escape our severe punishment in any part of the globe,” he warned.
The dangerous rhetoric comes as Russia – which was recently rumored to be ramping up economic support for the North – reversed course and said it would curtail economic, scientific and other ties with North Korea in line with UN sanctions
Meanwhile, the European Union announced new sanctions on Pyongyang for developing nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles.
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Sunday that diplomatic efforts aimed at resolving the North Korean crisis “will continue until the first bomb drops.” His commitment to diplomacy came despite
President Donald Trump’s tweets several weeks ago that his chief envoy was “wasting his time” trying to negotiate with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, whom he derisively referred to as “Little Rocket Man.”
A report published by Russian media earlier today claiming that US and North Korean diplomats might be meeting at a conference in Moscow next week was quickly denied by the isolated country’s government, which said it’s not yet ready to begin negotiating with its greatest geopolitical foe.
Kim also reiterated that North Korea considers its missile arsenal “a precious strategic asset that cannot be reversed or bartered for anything.”
“Unless the hostile policy and the nuclear threat of the U.S. is thoroughly eradicated, we will never put our nuclear weapons and ballistic rockets on the negotiating table under any circumstances,” Kim said.
But in an interesting twist, Kim told the disarmament committee that while the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea — North Korea’s official name — would like to see nuclear weapons vanish from the face of the earth, aggressive expansion of nuclear arsenals has left the country no choice but to arm itself.
By accelerating the modernization of its weapons, the US is “reviving a nuclear arms race reminiscent of [the] Cold War era,” Kim said. He also noted that the nuclear weapon states, including the United States, boycotted negotiations for the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons that was approved in July by 122 countries at the United Nations.
“The DPRK consistently supports the total elimination of nuclear weapons and the efforts for denuclearization of the entire world,” he said.
But as long as the United States rejects the treaty and “constantly threatens and blackmails the DPRK with nuclear weapons ... the DPRK is not in position to accede to the treaty.”