North Korea vows to continue missile tests

Mike Pence warns Pyongyang not to test Donald Trump’s resolve during Korea visit

North Korea will continue to regularly test missiles and any military action against it by the US would prompt “all-out war”, a senior North Korean official told the BBC on Monday.

North Korea has conducted several missile and nuclear tests in defiance of UN sanctions and has said it has developed a missile that can strike the US mainland.

Its latest missile test on Sunday failed a few seconds after launch.

“We’ll be conducting more missile tests on a weekly, monthly and yearly basis,” the BBC quoted vice-foreign minister Han Song-Ryol as saying in an interview.


“If the US is reckless enough to use military means, it would mean, from that very day, an all-out war.”

The BBC reported that Han also said North Korea believed its nuclear weapons protected it from the threat of military action by the US.

Earlier on Monday, US vice-president Mike Pence warned North Korea against testing the US’s determination with its nuclear threats, saying recent military strikes in Syria and Afghanistan showed Washington was ready to strike back with an “overwhelming and effective” response.

“North Korea will do well not to test his [Donald Trump’s] resolve or strength of the armed forces of the US in this region,” Mr Pence said, during a news conference with South Korea’s acting president and prime minister Hwang Kyo-ahn.

Mr Pence, who is in South Korea at the start of an Asian visit, was referring to the US air strike on a Syrian air base on April 7th after a suspected chemical attack, and the dropping of a massive bomb on an Islamic State complex in Afghanistan.

“We hope to achieve this objective [Pyongyang’s denuclearisation] through peaceful means, but all options are on the table,” he added, describing North Korea as the region’s “most dangerous and urgent threat”.

Demilitarized Zone

Mr Pence also visited the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) separating the peninsula.

Looking across the DMZ from the village of Panmunjom, Mr Pence said the US’s “era of strategic patience” with Pyongyang was finished.

This refers to the Obama administration’s approach to North Korea, which has been criticised for failing to prevent Pyongyang from developing its nuclear programme.

The whole region is watching developments in east Asia nervously, as North Korea refuses to yield and after Mr Trump described the country’s nuclear policy as a “problem that will be taken care of”.

Lying on the 38th Parallel, the DMZ is 4km wide and stretches right across the peninsula.

The US has about 28,500 troops and equipment stationed in South Korea.

At the DMZ, Mr Pence denounced North Korea’s failure to follow through on its denuclearisation commitments.

“North Korea answered our overtures [for denuclearisation] with wilful deception, broken promises, and nuclear and missile tests,” he said.

Within the DMZ there are successive rows of barbed wire and fortifications, and at key points in the zone South Korean and North Korean soldiers face each other.

Panmunjom was where an armistice was signed ending the Korean War (1950-53).

A formal peace treaty has never been signed and the two Koreas remain technically at war. Mr Pence’s father served in the Korean War.

Yonhap news agency in South Korea reported that the US and South Korea staged a joint air force military exercise called Max Thunder on Monday.

North Korea is believed to be preparing to conduct a sixth nuclear test any day now.

Mr Pence and Mr Hwang reaffirmed their agreement to deploy the US Terminal High Altitude Area Defence (THAAD) anti-missile system.

China is angry about the deployment, fearing that the system’s powerful radar could hurt its strategic security interests, but Mr Pence said the “defensive measure” was “called for by and called for the alliance”.

Mr Pence travels on to Japan on Tuesday.

Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe has also urged North Korea not to take any more provocative steps.

Mr Pence’s trip also takes him to Indonesia and Australia.

Additional reporting: Reuters

Clifford Coonan

Clifford Coonan

Clifford Coonan, an Irish Times contributor, spent 15 years reporting from Beijing