North Korea defends right to fire missiles and warns US of catastrophic consequences of conflict

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North Korea’s envoy to the UN has warned the US to expect “catastrophic consequences” if the current war of words continues to escalate, as the country defended its right to carry out Tuesday’s missile test.

A short-range ballistic missile flew over Hokkaido, one of Japan’s main island territories, before splashing down in the Pacific. The “reckless” launch was condemned by Tokyo as an to the region.

The North’s ambassador in Geneva, Han Tae-song, told the UN’s disarmament forum: “My country has every reason to respond with tough counter-measures as an exercise of its right to self-defence.

“The US should be fully responsible for the catastrophic consequences it will entail.”

Washington was driving the Korean peninsula “towards an extreme level of explosion” by deploying its strategic assets there, he claimed.

And Rodong Sinmun, North Korea’s official newspaper, said: “The US should know that it can neither browbeat the DPRK with any economic sanctions and military threats and blackmail nor make the DPRK flinch from the road chosen by itself.” 

Pyongyang’s 13th missile test this year came amid joint US and South Korean war games, and following the South’s own missile tests last week.

Hours afterwards, the South Korean military  at a firing range near its border with the North to show its “strong capability to punish” the Kim regime in the case of outright hostilities.

The missile was thought to have been a Hwasong-12, with a maximum range of 4,500km (2,800 miles), as shown in the below infographic, produced for The Independent by statistics agency .

This infographic, created for The Independent by statistics agency Statista, shows the types of missile North Korea possesses (Statista/The Independent)

US President Donald Trump suggested last week that Kim Jong-un “is starting to respect us” following a series of tough statements he had made—promising “fire and fury like the world has never seen” and .

His harsh rhetoric prompted similar from Pyongyang and did not appear to deter the regime, which only days ago launched three short-range missiles into the Sea of Japan.

On Tuesday morning China, North Korea’s sole major ally, urged restraint on all sides and called for diplomatic talks. Beijing said sanctions and other pressure could not solve the problem of North Korea’s pursuit of nuclear weapons.

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Mr Trump, his Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, and South Korean President Moon Jae-in have all previously signalled their desire for talks with the North.

Russia said it wanted the North to show restraint and avoid any new provocative actions, while calling on the US and its allies to refrain from any military escalation. Foreign minister Sergei Lavrov added that Pyongyang “must respect” United Nations resolutions meant to ban it from launching missiles.

Shinzo Abe, Japan’s Prime Minister, said he had held a 40-minute phone conversation with Mr Trump and the pair were in “total agreement” that an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council—scheduled for later today—was needed to increase pressure on North Korea.

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