North Korea has claimed the missiles it launched on March 25 were a “new-type tactical guided projectile”, in its first statement since the test.
It was the country’s first ballistic launch in almost a year and the first since Joe Biden became US President.
President Biden has said the US will “respond accordingly”. The US, Japan and South Korea have condemned the tests.
Under UN Security Council resolutions, North Korea is banned from testing ballistic missiles.
North Korea’s statement on March 26, issued through state media outlet KCNA, says the two weapons struck a test target 373 miles off North Korea’s east coast, disputing Japanese assessments that they flew just over 240 miles.
It added that the new missile is able to carry a payload of 2.5 tons, which would make it capable of carrying a nuclear warhead.
“The development of this weapon system is of great significance in bolstering up the military power of the country and deterring all sorts of military threats,” Ri Pyong Chol, the senior leader who oversaw the test, was quoted as saying.
President Biden told reporters that the launch was a violation of UN resolutions and that the US was consulting with partners and allies.
“There will be responses – if they choose to escalate, we will respond accordingly,” he said.
“But I’m also prepared for some form of diplomacy, but it has to be conditioned upon the end result of denuclearization.”
It remains unclear what exact type of missile the North Koreans have launched. State media said it had an “improved version of a solid fuel engine” and described it as a tactical guided missile that could perform “gliding and pull-up” maneuvers, which could mean it is harder to intercept.
However, the test highlights the progress North Korea’s weapons program has seen since denuclearization talks with the US stalled under former President Donald Trump.
Analysts have suggested the missiles were the same as the ones unveiled at a military parade in the capital Pyongyang in October 2020.
“If that is the case, they appear to have an improved variant of the previously tested KN-23 missile with a really big warhead,” Jeffrey Lewis of the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies (CNS) told Reuters.
Such a new missile would allow North Korea to put heavier nuclear warheads on its rockets, Vipin Narang, a security studies professor at MIT said on Twitter.
Developing miniaturized nuclear warheads is difficult, although some observers believe that North Korea has this capability already.
North Korea last fired ballistic missiles a year ago amid stalled relations between then-US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.
The Biden administration says it has unsuccessfully tried to make diplomatic contact with North Korea.
North Korea has yet to acknowledge that Joe Biden is now in office, and the two countries remain at loggerheads over the North’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs.
North Korea has unveiled a new submarine-launched ballistic missile, described by state media as “the world’s most powerful weapon”.
According to state media, several of the missiles were displayed at a parade overseen by leader Kim Jong-un.
The new weapon’s actual capabilities remain unclear, as it is not known to have been tested.
The show of military strength comes days before Joe Biden’s inauguration.
It also follows a rare political meeting where Kim Jong-un decried the US as his country’s “biggest enemy”.
Images released by North Korean state media showed at least four large black-and-white missiles being driven past flag-waving crowds.
Clad in a leather coat and fur hat, Kim Jong-un is pictured smiling and waving as he watched the display in Pyongyang’s Kim Il Sung Square, which also included infantry troops, artillery and tanks.
The official Korean Central News Agency said: “The world’s most powerful weapon, submarine-launch ballistic missile, entered the square one after another, powerfully demonstrating the might of the revolutionary armed forces.”
The event on January 14 did not showcase North Korea’s largest intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM). That colossal weapon is believed to be able to deliver a nuclear warhead to anywhere in the US, and its size had surprised even seasoned analysts when it was put on show last year.
North Korea’s latest display of its arsenal comes at the end of a five-yearly congress of the ruling Workers’ Party.
In his address to members last week, Kim Jong-un had pledged to expand North Korea’s nuclear weapons and military potential, outlining a list of desired weapons including long-range ballistic missiles capable of being launched from land or sea and “super-large warheads”.
He also said that the US was North Korea’s “biggest obstacle for our revolution and our biggest enemy… no matter who is in power, the true nature of its policy against North Korea will never change”.
Under Kim Jong-un’s leadership North Korea has made rapid progress in its weapons program, which it says is necessary to defend itself against a possible US invasion.
According to experts, the unveiling of the new missiles appears designed to send the incoming Biden administration a message of North Korea’s growing military prowess.
Russia expressed concern at the renewed tensions between the Koreas.
Dmitry Peskov, a spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin, said on June 16: “We call for restraint from all the sides.”
Tensions between North and South Korea have been escalating for weeks, prompted by defector groups in the South sending propaganda across the border.
Kim Jong-un’s sister, Kim Yo-jong – considered a close and powerful ally – threatened at the weekend to demolish the office.
There were hopes for improved relations between North Korea and South Korea and its close ally the US after President Donald Trump met Kim Jong-un at the North-South border last June, but nothing materialized and the atmosphere has since deteriorated.
North Korea is under crippling US and UN economic sanctions over its militarized nuclear program. Washington has not yet commented on the North’s latest action.
In recent weeks, North Korea has repeatedly condemned South Korea for allowing propaganda into its territory.
Defector groups regularly send such material via balloons, or even drones, into North Korea.
The March 29 test was of two short-range ballistic missiles fired from the
eastern city of Wonsan. They flew for 255 miles with a maximum altitude of
around 30 miles before falling into the sea, the South Korean military said.
On March 30, North Korean state media outlet KCNA reported that it had
successfully tested “super large” multiple rocket launchers.
By then South Korea had already
condemned the North’s actions in a harshly-worded statement.
South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff
said: “In a situation where the
entire world is experiencing difficulties due to Covid-19, this kind of
military act by North Korea is very inappropriate and we call for an immediate
According to Reuters, the latest
test marked the eighth and ninth missiles launched in four rounds of tests this
North Korea had earlier announced it would be holding a
session of the Supreme People’s Assembly, the country’s parliament, on April 10.
Analysts say the meeting will involve almost 700 of North Korea’s leaders in
The projectiles flew for 255 miles
with a maximum altitude of around 30 miles, the South Korean military said.
Japan’s coast guard confirmed a
missile had landed outside the waters of its exclusive economic zone.
It comes as North Korea announced it
would be holding a session of the Supreme People’s Assembly, the country’s
parliament, on April 19. Analysts say the meeting will involve almost 700 of
North Korea’s leaders in one spot.
There have been no reported cases of coronavirus in North Korea, though some
experts have cast doubt on this.
North Korea borders China, where the virus emerged, and South Korea, where
there has been a major outbreak.
A top US military official said last week he was “fairly certain”
there were infections in North Korea.
However, North Korea quarantined around 380 foreigners – mostly diplomats and staff in Pyongyang – in their compounds for at least 30 days. The restrictions were lifted at the beginning of March. Around 80 foreigners, mainly diplomats, were flown out of Pyongyang on March 9.
North Korea has accused Japan’s PM
Shinzo Abe of mislabeling its latest weapons test, branding him an “imbecile”
and “political dwarf”.
The Japanese prime minister
condemned North Korea for “repeated launches of ballistic missiles”
after two projectiles were fired on November 28.
However, North Korea insisted it was
testing a “super-large multiple-rocket launcher”.
On November 30, state media said
Japan “may see what a real ballistic missile is in the not distant
North Korea is banned from firing
ballistic missiles under UN Security Council resolutions.
It is under various sets of
sanctions over its missile and nuclear programs. Lifting the sanctions has been
a key aim of North Korea in talks with the US – Japan’s ally – but these have
stalled since a summit between its leader Kim Jong-un and President Donald
Trump broke down in February.
North Korea fired what observers in South Korea called two “unidentified projectiles” from its South Hamgyong province into the Sea of Japan on November 28.North Korea Launches New Ballistic Missile over JapanNorth Korea fired what observers in South Korea called two “unidentified projectiles” from its South Hamgyong province into the Sea of Japan on November 28.
Condemning the launch, PM Shinzo Abe
said: “North Korea’s repeated
launches of ballistic missiles are a serious defiance to not only our country
but also the international community.”
North Korea issued images said to be
of Kim Jong-un inspecting the launch.
The KCNA state media said on
November 30: “It can be said that
Abe is the only one idiot in the world and the most stupid man ever known in
history as he fails to distinguish a missile from a multiple launch rocket
system while seeing the photo-accompanied report.”
It added: “Abe may see what a real ballistic missile is in the not distant
future and under his nose. Abe is none other than a perfect imbecile and a
Negotiations between North Korea and
the US remain stalled since the collapse of February’s summit in Hanoi.
President Trump and Kim Jong-un did
meet again in the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) that divides the Koreas in June and
agreed to restart working-level talks.
These began in October, but failed
to make any progress.
North Korea has demanded the US change its approach by the end of the year,
and was lukewarm in response to a tweet by President Trump hinting at another
meeting with Kim Jong-un.
In May, Shinzo Abe said he was ready to meet Kim Jong-un “without
conditions”, raising hopes of renewed negotiations on the nuclear issue as
well as on the lingering historical issue of North Korea’s abduction of
The Japanese were kidnapped by North Korea in the 1970s and 80s to help
train its spies. Japan believes 17 citizens were abducted, only five of whom
have since been repatriated.
However, PM Abe’s offer has not come to fruition. North Korea said this month that the Japanese leader would never set foot in Pyongyang after he condemned an earlier weapons test.
Six days ago, North Korea fired two
short range missiles, one of which travelled about 425 miles and the other 268
That launch was the first since President Trump and Kim Jong-un held an
impromptu meeting in June at the demilitarized zone (DMZ), an area that divides
the two Koreas, where they agreed to restarted denuclearization talks.
North Korea has recently again voiced anger over planned military exercises
between South Korea and the US, an annual event which the allies have refused
to cancel but have scaled back significantly.
One analyst said more missile tests could be expected.
North Korea called the drills a “violation of the spirit” of the
joint statement signed by President Trump and Kim Jong-un at their first
face-to-face talks in Singapore last year.
Pyongyang had warned the exercises could affect the resumption of
On July 29, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that he hoped these talks
could start “very soon”, but that there were no further summits
Last year, Kim Jong-un said North Korea would stop nuclear testing and would no longer launch intercontinental ballistic missiles.
Characteristically bellicose, North Korea described the latest UN sanctions “as a violent breach of our republic’s sovereignty and an act of war that destroys the peace and stability of the Korean peninsula and a wide region: “The United States, completely terrified at our accomplishment of the great historic cause of completing the state nuclear force, is getting more and more frenzied in the moves to impose the harshest-ever sanctions and pressure on our country.
“We will further consolidate our self-defensive nuclear deterrence aimed at fundamentally eradicating the US nuclear threats, blackmail and hostile moves by establishing the practical balance of force with the US.”
The US said it was seeking a diplomatic solution to the issue and drafted this new set of sanctions, including deliveries of petrol products will be capped at 500,000 barrels a year, and crude oil at four million barrels a year; all North Korean nationals working abroad will have to return home within 24 months under the proposals, restricting a vital source of foreign currency.
There will also be a ban on exports of North Korean goods, such as machinery and electrical equipment.
The UN sanctions came in response to North Korea’s November 28 firing of a ballistic missile, which the US said was its highest yet.
President Donald Trump has previously threatened to “totally destroy” North Korea if it launches a nuclear attack while North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has described the American president as “mentally deranged”.
Australian authorities have arrested a man for allegedly acting as an economic agent for North Korea.
Australian Federal Police (AFP) said that Chan Han Choi, 59, has been charged with brokering illegal exports from the country and discussing the supply of weapons of mass destruction.
Police allege Chan Han Choi has broken both UN and Australian sanctions.
The case against Chan Han Choi, who has lived in Australia for more than 30 years, is the first of its kind in the country.
It is the first time anyone has been charged under Australia’s 1995 Weapons of Mass Destruction (Prevention of Proliferation) Act.
Police say there was evidence that Chan Han Choi had been in contact with “high ranking officials in North Korea”.
They allege he had brokered services related to North Korea’s weapons program, including the sale of specialist services including ballistic missile technology to foreign entities, in order to generate income for the North Korean regime.
Chan Han Choi also was charged with brokering the sale of coal from North Korea to groups in Indonesia and Vietnam. He is facing six charges in total after being arrested at his Sydney home on December 16.
In a news conference, police confirmed the man was a naturalized Australian citizen of Korean origin who had been in the country for over 30 years.
They described him as a “loyal agent” who “believed he was acting to serve some higher patriotic purpose”.
However, police insisted Chan Han Choi’s actions did not pose any “direct risk” to Australians, with the actions occurring offshore.
“I know these charges sound alarming. Let me be clear we are not suggesting there are any weapons or missile component that ever came to Australian soil,” AFP Assistant Commissioner Neil Gaughan said.
“Any individual who attempts to fly in the face of sanctions cannot and will not go unnoticed in Australia.”
Chan Han Choi could face up to 10 years in prison and has been denied bail.
In October the Australian government said they had received a letter from North Korea urging Canberra to distance itself from the Trump administration.
North Korea had previously warned that Australia would “not be able to avoid a disaster” if it followed US policies towards Kim Jong-un’s regime.
The crew of a Cathay Pacific flight from San Franscisco to Hong Kong flying over Japan reported a suspected sighting of last week’s North Korean missile test.
On November 29, North Korea launched a new intercontinental ballistic missile it said could reach anywhere in the US.
The test-launch raised tension further with South Korea and the US, who on December 4 began their largest ever joint air exercise, which North Korea has branded an “all-out provocation”.
Described by North Korea as its “most powerful” missile, the November 29 launch ended up in Japanese waters but flew higher than any other the North had previously tested.
According to the South China Morning Post, Cathay Pacific’s general manager of operations Mark Hoey told staff in a message that “today the crew of CX893 reported, <<Be advised, we witnessed the DPRK missile blow up and fall apart near our current location>>”.
The launch was reportedly also witnessed by two South Korean aircraft en route to Seoul from the US.
Unlike other countries, North Korea usually does not announce its missile tests which means they come without warning or known flight path, posing a potential risk to planes.
North Korea does have access to international civil aviation data so it can study the airspace before any launch.
While the risk of an incident remains very low, it is something that airlines are taking into consideration. In early August, Air France expanded their no-fly zone around North Korea after it transpired one of its planes flew close to a North Korean missile path.
The December 4 air exercise between the US and South Korea, called Vigilant Ace, will last for five days.
It will involve some 230 aircraft, including two dozen stealth jets, and tens of thousands of military personnel.
North Korea has condemned the drills, saying over the weekend that the US was “begging for nuclear war” and that it would “seriously consider” counter-measures to the exercises.
The US has urged the world to cut diplomatic and trade ties with North Korea following its latest ballistic missile test.
Speaking at the UN Security Council, US envoy Nikki Haley said President Donald Trump had asked his Chinese counterpart to cut off oil supplies to Pyongyang.
Nikki Haley said the US did not seek conflict but that North Korea’s regime would be “utterly destroyed” if war broke out.
The warning came after North Korea tested its first missile in two months.
North Korea said the missile fired on November 29, which it said reached an altitude of about 2,780 miles – more than 10 times the height of the International Space Station – carried a warhead capable of re-entering the Earth’s atmosphere.
The claim was not proven and experts have cast doubt on North Korea’s ability to master such technology.
However, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un called the launch “impeccable” and a “breakthrough”.
The test – one of several this year – has been condemned by the international community and the UN Security Council called an emergency meeting.
Nikki Haley warned that “continued acts of aggression” were only serving to further destabilize the region.
Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said sanctions were exhausted.
He told reporters: “The Americans should explain to all of us what they are trying to do – if they want to find a pretext for destroying North Korea they should come clean about it, and the American leadership should confirm it.”
Earlier the Russian UN ambassador said North Korea should stop its missile and nuclear tests but also called on Washington to cancel military exercises with South Korea planned for December as it would “inflame an already explosive situation”.
China also suggested North Korea should stop the tests in return for a halt to US military exercises – a proposal Washington has rejected in the past.
Nikki Haley said on November 29: “We need China to do more.
“President Trump called President Xi this morning and told him that we’ve come to the point where China must cut off the oil for North Korea.
“We know the main driver of its nuclear production is oil,” she said. “The major supplier of that oil is China.”
China is a historic ally and North Korea’s most important trading partner and Pyongyang is thought to be dependent on China for much of its oil supplies.
Also in the day, the White House said that President Trump spoke to his counterpart, Xi Jinping, by phone, urging him to “use all available levers to convince North Korea to end its provocations and return to the path of denuclearization”.
Donald Trump tweeted: “Just spoke to President XI JINPING of China concerning the provocative actions of North Korea. Additional major sanctions will be imposed on North Korea today. This situation will be handled!”
Speaking in Missouri, President Trump derided Kim Jong-un, describing him as a “sick puppy” and “little rocket man”.
Xi Jinping responded by telling Donald Trump it was Beijing’s “unswerving goal to maintain peace and stability in north-east Asia and denuclearize the Korean peninsula”, Chinese news agency Xinhua reported.
Experts say the height reached by the inter-continental ballistic missile (ICBM) indicates the US could be within range, although North Korea is yet to prove it has reached its aim of miniaturizing a nuclear warhead.
It has been on the list before but was removed in 2008 by the administration of George W. Bush as part of negotiations on its nuclear program.
The campaign to reinstate it intensified after the American student Otto Warmbier died shortly after he was released from North Korean custody.
Speaking to reporters at a White House press briefing, Rex Tillerson said the designation was meant to hold North Korea accountable for recent actions it has taken “including assassinations outside of their country” and “using banned chemical weapons”.
The secretary of state admitted that given existing sanctions it was “very symbolic” but also said new measures could “disrupt and dissuade some third parties from undertaking certain activities with North Korea”.
“The practical effects may be limited but hopefully we’re closing off a few loopholes with this,” he said.
Kim Jong-un continues to pursue nuclear weapons and missile programs in defiance of UN Security Council sanctions.
The North Korean leader has made no secret of Pyongyang’s plans to develop a missile capable of reaching the US mainland and has claimed to have developed a hydrogen bomb.
Last month, Defense Secretary James Mattis said that the threat of nuclear attack from North Korea was increasing.
During his visit to South Korea, President Donald Trump has urged North Korea to “come to the table” and discuss giving up its nuclear weapons.
Striking a different tone from previous fiery rhetoric, the president said he “hoped to God” he did not have to use the US military against North Korea.
Donald Trump was speaking at a press conference with South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in in Seoul, as part of his tour of Asia.
The president has previously threatened “fire and fury” against North Korea.
Donald Trump is on a five-nation tour of Asia, where Pyongyang’s nuclear ambitions have been high on his agenda.
At a press conference, Presidents Trump and Moon reiterated their call for Pyongyang to denuclearize, with Donald Trump saying it “makes sense for North Korea to come to the table”, and to “do the right thing, not only for North Korea but for humanity all over the world”.
The two leaders also called on China and Russia to put pressure on North Korea, and said they were lifting the limit on South Korean missile payloads, which they had agreed to do in September.
President Trump also said that South Korea would be ordering “billions of dollars” in military equipment from the US, which he said would reduce their trade deficit.
It was unclear if a deal was already struck, but Moon Jae-in said they had agreed to “begin consultations on acquisitions” that would enhance South Korea’s defense capabilities.
President Trump had earlier tweeted that “massive military and energy order” from Japan were also happening, and claimed on November 6 that Japan could shoot down North Korea’s missiles with US equipment.
Japan’s PM Shinzo Abe said earlier that he was considering it.
Though the President Trump will only spend about 24 hours in South Korea, it is perhaps the most symbolic stop in his Asian tour.
His visit is designed to bolster the military alliance that has long protected South Korea, and strength in unity is the message they want to send to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un just across the border.
However, the two presidents also have their differences. President Trump has previously accused Moon Jae-in’s government of trying to appease North Korea.
Donald Trump has also previously criticized the free trade agreement between the US and South Korea, and has made clear he wants to re-negotiate its terms.
During the press conference, President Trump said the deal had been “quite unsuccessful” for the US, and that the two countries were going to “pursue a much better deal”.
Protests against Donald Trump, as well as counter-rallies welcoming him, have been held in Seoul and elsewhere.
President Trump will be going to China, Vietnam and the Philippines in the coming week.
The US and South Korea have conducted a joint military exercise, flying two strategic bombers over the Korean peninsula.
The B-1B combat bombers were joined by two South Korean F-15K fighter jets, and carried out air-to-ground missile drills off South Korean waters.
The move comes amid heightened tensions with North Korea over its nuclear program.
North Korea conducted its sixth nuclear test, and launched two missiles over Japan, in recent months.
The bombers took off from the US Pacific territory of Guam on October 10, before entering South Korean airspace and conducting firing exercises over the East Sea and Yellow Sea, South Korea’s military said.
The training was part of a program of “extended deterrence” against North Korea, it added.
The US said Japan’s air force also took part in the drill.
According to the White House, President Donald Trump met top officials from his national security team on Tuesday night for a briefing on ways to respond to threats from North Korea.
President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un have exchanged heated rhetoric in recent weeks.
In aspeech at the UN last month, President Trump accused Kim Jong-un of being “on a suicide mission” – while the North Korean leader responded by vowing to “tame the mentally deranged US dotard with fire”.
On October 11, a South Korean lawmaker said North Korean hackers had reportedly stolen a large cache of military documents from his country, including a plan to assassinate Kim Jong-un, and wartime contingency plans drawn up by the US and South Korea.
The South Korean defense ministry refused to comment about the allegation, while North Korea denied the claim.
According to new reports, North Korean hackers have stolen a large cache of military documents from South Korea, including a plan to assassinate the country’s leader Kim Jong-un.
South Korean lawmaker Rhee Cheol-hee said the information was from his country’s defense ministry.
The compromised documents include wartime contingency plans drawn up by the United States and South Korea.
The documents also include reports to the allies’ senior commanders.
The South Korean defense ministry has so far refused to comment about the allegation.
Plans for South Korea’s special forces were reportedly accessed, along with information on significant power plants and military facilities in the South.
Rhee Cheol-hee belongs to South Korea’s ruling party, and sits on its parliament’s defense committee. He said some 235 Gb of military documents had been stolen from the Defense Integrated Data Centre, and that 80% of them have yet to be identified.
The hack took place in September 2016. In May 2017, South Korea said a large amount of data had been stolen and that North Korea may have instigated the cyber attack – but gave no details of what was taken.
According to South Korea’s Yonhap news agency, Seoul has been subject to a barrage of cyber attacks by its North Korea in recent years, with many targeting government websites and facilities.
North Korea is believed to have specially-trained hackers based overseas, including in China.
Pyonyang has accused South Korea of “fabricating” the claims.
News that North Korea is likely to have accessed the Seoul-Washington plans for all-out war in the Koreas will do nothing to soothe tensions between the US and North Korea.
The US and North Korea have been at verbal loggerheads over Pyongyang’s nuclear activities, with the US pressing for a halt to missile tests and the North vowing to continue them.
North Korea recently claimed to have successfully tested a miniaturized hydrogen bomb, which could be loaded onto a long-range missile.
In a speech at the UN last month, President Donald Trump threatened to destroy North Korea if it menaced the US or its allies, and said its leader “is on a suicide mission”.
Kim Jong-un responded with a rare statement, vowing to “tame the mentally deranged US dotard with fire”.
President Trump’s latest comment took the form of a cryptic tweet at the weekend, where he warned that “only one thing will work” in dealing with North Korea, after years of talks had proved fruitless. The president did not elaborate further.
Tensions between President Donald Trump and North Korea have been mounting for several months over North Korea’s nuclear ambitions.
President Trump is also threatening to withdraw from an agreement which monitors and limits Iran’s nuclear development.
In a statement posted on Facebook, ICAN said the prize “shines a needed light on the path the ban treaty provides towards a world free of nuclear weapons”.
“This is a time of great global tension, when fiery rhetoric could all too easily lead us, inexorably, to unspeakable horror,” the statement read.
“If ever there were a moment for nations to declare their unequivocal opposition to nuclear weapons, that moment is now.”
The number of nuclear weapons worldwide has been steadily decreasing since the 1980s, but none of the world’s nuclear powers have fully disarmed – an ambition set out in the 1970 Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT).
Nuclear armed nations boycotted the latest talks because they favor working within the NPT’s original framework to reduce stockpiles.
Unlike the NPT, the 2017 treaty explicitly bans nuclear weapons. It calls for signatories not to develop, test or threaten to use the weapons. It also forbids nations from having weapons tactically stationed in their countries from allied partners.
However, so far it has only been acceded to by 53 of the world’s countries including Cuba, Ireland and New Zealand.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has said that the US is in “direct contact” with North Korea.
He also said Washington was “probing” the possibility of talks with Pyongyang, “so stay tuned”.
During a trip to China, Rex Tillerson said: “We have lines of communications to Pyongyang.
“We’re not in a dark situation.”
In recent months, North Korea and the US have engaged in heated rhetoric, but it was not previously known they had lines of communication.
President Donald Trump has threatened to annihilate North Korea, saying Kim Jong-un, “is on a suicide mission”, which led the North Korean leader to release a statement vowing to “tame the mentally deranged US dotard with fire”.
On September 30, North Korea continued the rhetoric, releasing a statement calling President Trump an “old psychopath” bent on the “suicidal act of inviting a nuclear disaster that will reduce America to a sea of flames”.
The war of words comes against a backdrop of repeated missile tests and North Korea’s claim that, on September 3, it successfully tested a miniaturized hydrogen bomb which could be loaded on to a long-range missile.
The tests were internationally condemned, with the UN bringing in sanctions against the secretive country in an attempt to force it to stop its weapons program.
Rex Tillerson is in China meeting with President Xi Jinping and other officials, hoping to encourage them to implement the sanctions.
China this week told North Korean businesses operating in its territory to close down. However, China remains keen to see negotiations with North Korea.
President Trump said last month that “talking is not the answer”.
However, there were reports of so-called back channels between the two administrations.
According to the Associated Press, the US and North Korea had been engaged in quiet discussions for months, with “diplomatic contact… occurring regularly” between the US envoy for North Korea policy and “a senior North Korean diplomat at the country’s UN mission”.
Rex Tillerson has also previously hinted there are channels available between the two countries, AP added.
More widely known is the role Sweden plays in negotiating with North Korea on Washington’s behalf.
In August, Ulv Hanssen from the Swedish Institute of International Affairs told Reuters Sweden could step in again because it was trusted by both US and North Korea.
“Sweden has done so on numerous occasions before, especially in relation to imprisoned Americans,” he said.
The Swedish Foreign Ministry declined to comment on the speculation.
China has traditionally been protective of North Korea, but has sharply criticized its nuclear tests and escalating rhetoric.
Earlier this year, China clamped down on its purchase of coal from North Korea and on seafood and iron trade across the border.
Coupled with the textile trade ban, Pyongyang has lost several of its scant sources of foreign currency income.
China has been under public pressure to take action from President Donald Trump, who has both applauded and denounced Chinese policy at different times.
President Trump has also been involved in a direct war of words with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, labeling him a “rocket man” on “a suicide mission”. He warned that he would have no choice but to “totally destroy” North Korea if forced to defend the US or its allies.
Kim Jong-un, in turn, has called Donald Trump “deranged” and a “dotard”, and said the US president’s comments have convinced him he is right to seek a nuclear deterrent, and has even accused President Trump of declaring war.
At a news briefing on September 28, China’s foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang said: “We are opposed to any war on the Korean peninsula.”
“Sanctions and the promoting of talks are both the requirements of the UN Security Council. We should not overemphasize one aspect while ignoring the other.”
On September 24, US warplanes flew close to North Korea’s coast in a show of force.
Speaking as he left New York after the UN General Assembly, Ri Yong-ho said his country had the right to shoot down US warplanes even if they were not in North Korea’s airspace.
On September 25, White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the US had “not declared war against North Korea and frankly the suggestion of that is absurd”.
Pentagon spokesman Col. Robert Manning reacted by saying: “If North Korea does not stop their provocative actions, you know, we will make sure that we provide options to the president to deal with North Korea.”
South Korea – technically at war with North Korea since the 1950s – called for “astuteness and steadfastness” in responding to what it describes as continued provocations by Pyongyang.
Speaking in New York, South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha called for the prevention of any “further escalation of tensions, or any kind of accidental military clashes in the region which can quickly spiral out of control”.
South Korea’s intelligence service said North Korea was readjusting the position of its military aircraft and strengthening its coastal defenses, according to the South’s news agency Yonhap.
Stéphane Dujarric, a spokesman for UN Secretary General António Guterres, said that “fiery talk can lead to fatal misunderstandings” and that “the only solution for this is a political solution”.
China’s ambassador to the UN, Liu Jieyi, told Reuters: “We want things to calm down.
“It’s getting too dangerous and it’s in nobody’s interest.”
Despite weeks of tension, experts have played down the risk of direct conflict.
North Korea has continued to carry out nuclear and ballistic missile tests in recent weeks, in defiance of successive rounds of UN sanctions.
Pyongyang says nuclear capabilities are its only deterrent against an outside world seeking to destroy it.
After North Korea’s latest and most powerful nuclear test earlier this month, the UN Security Council approved new sanctions on the country.
The Pentagon has said that US bombers have flown close to North Korea’s east coast to demonstrate the military options available to defeat any threat.
It said the flight was the farthest north of the demilitarized zone (DMZ) between the two Koreas that any US fighter jet or bomber had flown in the 21st Century.
Tensions have risen recently over North Korea’s nuclear program.
At the UN, North Korea’s foreign minister Ri Yong-ho said President Donald Trump was on a “suicide mission”.
Ri Yong-ho’s comments to the General Assembly mimicked President Trump’s remarks at the UN on September 20, when he called North Korean leader Kim Jong-un a “rocket man on a suicide mission”.
The North Korean foreign minister added that “insults” by President Trump – who was, he said, “mentally deranged and full of megalomania” – were an “irreversible mistake making it inevitable” that North Korean rockets would hit the US mainland.
President Trump, the foreign minister said, would “pay dearly” for his speech, in which he also said he would “totally destroy” North Korea if the US was forced to defend itself or its allies.
Donald Trump responded to the speech on Twitter by saying Ri Yong-ho and Kim Jong-un “won’t be around much longer” if they continue their rhetoric.
Shortly before his address, the Pentagon announced that the show of force underscored “the seriousness” with which the US took North Korea’s “reckless” behavior, calling the country’s weapons program a “grave threat”.
“This mission is a demonstration of US resolve and a clear message that the president has many military options to defeat any threat,” the Pentagon said in a statement.
“We are prepared to use the full range of military capabilities to defend the US homeland and our allies.”
US Air Force B-1B Lancer bombers from Guam, escorted by Air Force F-15C Eagle fighters from Okinawa, Japan, flew in international airspace, the Pentagon added.
The flight follows a week of heated rhetoric between the leaders of both countries – after President Trump’s comments, Kim Jong-un called him “mentally deranged” and “a dotard”.
Ri Yong-ho did not comment on the Pentagon’s announcement.
North Korea has refused to stop its missile and nuclear tests, despite successive rounds of UN sanctions. The North Korean leaders say nuclear capabilities are its only deterrent against an outside world seeking to destroy it.
After North Korea’s latest and most powerful nuclear test earlier this month, the UN Security Council approved new sanctions on the country.
However, speaking at the UN, Ri Yong-ho repeated that the restrictions would not make the country stop its nuclear development.
Meanwhile, a 3.4-magnitude tremor was detected near North Korea’s nuclear test site on September 23, but experts believe it was a natural earthquake.
The earthquake was recorded at a depth of 0km in North Hamgyong province, home to the Punggye-ri site, South Korea’s meteorological agency said.
The US Geological Survey (USGS) also said it occurred in the nuclear test area, but added that its seismologists assessed it as having a depth of 5km.
South Korea said no specific sound waves generated by artificial earthquakes were detected.
China’s Earthquake Administration said the quake was not a nuclear explosion and had the characteristics of a natural tremor. The agency had initially said it was a “suspected explosion”.
The launch followed a fresh round of UN sanctions and was unanimously condemned by the UN Security Council as “highly provocative”.
The foreign ministry statement, carried by North Korea’s official news agency KCNA, said: “The increased moves of the US and its vassal forces to impose sanctions and pressure on the DPRK [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea] will only increase our pace towards the ultimate completion of the state nuclear force.”
North Korea also said that the goal of the new UN sanctions, approved on September 11, was to “physically exterminate” the country’s people, system and government.
The sanctions are an attempt to starve North Korea of fuel and income for its weapons programs, and restrict oil imports and ban textile exports.
The fresh measures followed the sixth and most powerful nuclear test conducted by North Korea earlier this month.
However, some critics have raised questions over the effectiveness of the restrictions, as North Korea is still able to trade internationally.
North Korea’s commerce with China, its main ally, was partially responsible for an estimated economic growth of 3.9% in 2016, Bloomberg news agency reports.
The issue of North Korea’s weapons program is expected to dominate President Donald Trump’s address at the UN General Assembly and his meetings with the leaders of South Korea and Japan.
President Trump previously warned that “all options” were on the table and that North Korea would face “fire and fury” if it continued to threaten the US.
In a phone call on September 18, President Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping committed to “maximizing pressure on North Korea through vigorous enforcement” of UN Security Council resolutions, the White House said.
Russia has also criticized what it describes as “aggressive rhetoric” from the US.
China and Russia only agreed to the new UN sanctions after they were softened by Washington.
As with the last test on 29 August, the missile flew over Japan’s northern Hokkaido island before splashing down in the Pacific Ocean. There were no immediate reports of damage to aircraft or ships.
Sirens sounded across the region and text message alerts were sent out warning people to take cover.
According to observers, it is likely to have been an intermediate range ballistic missile (IRBM) though Japanese officials believe there is still a possibility it was an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).
What is so alarming about the new launch is that the US Pacific territory of Guam, which North Korea says it has plans to fire missiles towards, is 3,400km from Pyongyang, putting it within range of the latest missile.
Sanctions on North Korea were tightened this week in response to its sixth nuclear test on 3 September, which reportedly involved a miniaturized hydrogen bomb that could be loaded on to a long-range missile.
After the latest round of sanctions, it is not clear what other course of action is open to the UN Security Council.
Only on September 11, the UN Security Council voted to restrict oil imports and ban textile exports, in an attempt to starve North Korea of fuel and income for its weapons programs.
North Korea has launched a fiery attack on the US, threatening with the “greatest pain” it has ever suffered, following new sanctions imposed by the UN.
Its ambassador to the UN accused Washington of opting for “political, economic and military confrontation”.
President Donald Trump said the move was nothing compared to what would have to happen to deal with North Korea.
The UN sanctions are an attempt to starve the country of fuel and income for its weapons programs.
The new measures restrict oil imports and ban textile exports, and were approved after North Korea’s sixth and largest nuclear test earlier this month.
North Korea’s ambassador to the UN Han Tae Song said he “categorically rejected” what he called an “illegal resolution”.
“The forthcoming measures by DPRK [the Democratic Republic of Korea] will make the US suffer the greatest pain it has ever experienced in its history,” he told a UN conference in Geneva.
“Instead of making [the] right choice with rational analysis… the Washington regime finally opted for political, economic and military confrontation, obsessed with the wild dream of reversing the DPRK’s development of nuclear force – which has already reached the completion phase.”
The UN resolution was only passed unanimously after North Korea’s allies Russia and China agreed to softer sanctions than those proposed by the US.
The initial text included a total ban on oil imports, a measure seen by some analysts as potentially destabilizing for the North Korean regime.
The new sanctions agreed by the UN include:
Limits on imports of crude oil and oil products. China, North Korea’s main economic ally, supplies most of the country’s crude oil.
A ban on exports of textiles, which is Pyongyang’s second-biggest export worth more than $700 million a year.
A ban on new visas for North Korean overseas workers, which the US estimates would eventually cut off $500 million of tax revenue per year.
A proposed asset freeze and a travel ban on Kim Jong-un were dropped.
Reacting on September 13, President Donald Trump said: “We think it’s just another very small step, not a big deal.”
“I don’t know if it has any impact, but certainly it was nice to get a 15 to nothing vote. But those sanctions are nothing compared to what ultimately will have to happen,” the president added, without giving details.
The US ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley told the Security Council after the vote: “We don’t take pleasure in further strengthening sanctions today. We are not looking for war.”
“The North Korean regime has not yet passed the point of no return,” she added.
“If North Korea continues its dangerous path, we will continue with further pressure. The choice is theirs.”
The September 11 resolution against North Korea was the ninth one unanimously adopted by the UN since 2006.
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