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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 September 2018

North Korea attacks 'reckless' United States over Trump's Rocket Man comments

At speech to UN, foreign minister criticises American president and says the US is the reason it needs nuclear weapons

North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho addresses the 72nd United Nations General Assembly at U.N. headquarters in New York. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz
North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho addresses the 72nd United Nations General Assembly at U.N. headquarters in New York. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz

Ri Yong-ho, North Korea’s foreign minister, yesterday addressed the United Nations and responded to president Donald Trump’s calls on North Korea to change course and stop its missile and nuclear tests.

Mr Ri attacked Mr Trump as mentally deranged and said innocent lives would pay the cost of the president’s reckless provocations against North Korea.

Comparing the president to an ageing gambler, the foreign minister said Mr Trump had turned the UN into a den of gangsters where bloodshed is the order of the day.

“Lacking basic common knowledge, he tried to insult the supreme dignity of my country by referring to it by term rocketman,” he said, referring to Mr Trump's most recent comments about North Korean leader King Jong-un.

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Mr Ri confirmed Korea had tested a hydrogen bomb and was in the phase of completing its nuclear force.

“The very reason for the DPRK to possess nuclear weapons is the US,” he added.

Before Mr Ri's address, a mysterious earth tremor in North Korea had already set nerves on edge yesterday by triggering fears that the country had tested a new nuclear device.

On Thursday, Mr Ri had warned that North Korea could consider a hydrogen bomb test of an unprecedented scale over the Pacific Ocean.


                  <p>In this photo made available by the Department of Defense, a U.S. Air Force B-1B Lancer, assigned to the 37th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron, deployed from Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., prepares to take off from Andersen AFB, Guam, on Saturday, Sept. 23, 2017. The Pentagon says B-1B bombers from Guam and F-15 fighter escorts from Okinawa, Japan, have flown a mission in international airspace over the waters east of North Korea. (Staff Sgt. Joshua Smoot/U.S. Air Force via AP)</p>
US bombers accompanied by fighter jets flew off the east coast of North Korea yesterday. It was the furthest north of the Demilitarised Zone any US fighter or bomber aircraft have flown off North Korea’s coast this century. Staff Sgt. Joshua Smoot / US Air Force via AP.

The size of yesterday’s tremor was smaller than the earthquakes registered as a result of all of North Korea’s six nuclear tests and seismologists said the shockwaves did not appear to be man-made.

China’s Earthquake Administration said the magnitude 3.4 quake was not a nuclear explosion and had the characteristics of a natural tremor.

After the most recent test, which North Korea said was a hydrogen bomb, initial reports from the US Geological Survey put the tremor at magnitude 5.6 in a depth of 10 kilometres, but this was later upgraded to magnitude 6.3 at 10km.

The Comprehensive Test-Ban Treaty Organisation, which monitors nuclear tests, and officials of the South Korean meteorological agency said they also believed it was a natural quake.

Lassina Zerbo, the executive secretary of the organisation said the tremor was probably an ­aftershock from the North Korea’s nuclear test this month.

“The most probable hypothesis at present is that this is a consequence of the previous event, which was of a significant magnitude and may still have repercussions in a fracture zone,” Mr Zerbo said.

Jeffrey Lewis, the head of the East Asia Non-proliferation Program at the Middlebury Institute of Strategic Studies at Monterey, California, said: “Seismologists are very good at discriminating between earthquakes and explosions. I see no reason to doubt that it was an earthquake.”

Experts speculated that the earlier tests may have led to a collapse within the mountain range.

“It seems likely that these small tremors are related to the shifts in the ground due to the recent large test,” said David Wright of the Union of Concerned Scientists in the United States.

Mr Trump heaped more pressure on the stand-off at the weekend by calling North Korean leader Kim John-un the “little Rocket Man” at a campaign rally in Alabama.

“We can’t have madmen out there, shooting rockets all over the place,” Mr Trump said. “And by the way, the Rocket Man should’ve been handled a long time ago.

“I guarantee you one thing. He’s watching us like he’s never watched anyone before.“Maybe something works out and maybe it doesn’t but let me tell you one thing: we are ­protected.”

In a show of force, US bombers accompanied by fighter jets flew off the east coast of North Korea yesterday.

It was the furthest north of the Demilitarised Zone any US fighter or bomber aircraft have flown off North Korea’s coast this century, Pentagon spokesman Dana White said.

“This mission is a demonstration of US resolve and a clear message that the president has many military options to defeat any threat,” Ms White said. “We are prepared to use the full range of military capabilities to defend the US homeland and our allies."

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