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Pyongyang repeats threat of bomb over the Pacific

Oct 26,2017
Pyongyang’s warning of an atmospheric nuclear test over the Pacific Ocean should be taken “literally,” according to a senior North Korean diplomat in an interview Wednesday.

North Korea “has always brought its words into action,” Ri Yong-pil, who serves as vice president of the Foreign Ministry’s Institute for American Studies, told CNN. “The foreign minister is very well aware of the intentions of our supreme leader, so I think you should take his words literally.”

North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho told reporters last month during a visit to New York for the UN General Assembly that Pyongyang may consider conducting “the most powerful detonation” of a hydrogen bomb over the Pacific Ocean.

The minister was responding to U.S. President Donald Trump’s threat to “totally destroy” North Korea in his address to the General Assembly a few days earlier. Trump, using his nickname for North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, added, “Rocket Man is on a suicide mission for himself and for his regime.”

“The U.S. is talking about a military option and even practicing military moves,” senior diplomat Ri said in the CNN interview. “They’re pressuring us on all fronts with sanctions. If you think this will lead to diplomacy, you’re deeply mistaken.”

Trump, in an interview with Fox Business on Sunday, said, “You would be shocked to see how totally prepared we are if we need to be,” on Washington’s approach to North Korea.

But U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson continues to emphasize that Washington is prioritizing a “peaceful pressure campaign” on the North and suggested that the two countries had multiple open channels of communication.

North Korea conducted its sixth and most powerful nuclear test on Sept. 3, resulting in a new UN Security Council sanctions resolution restricting crude oil exports to the country, as well as unilateral measures from Washington.

Earlier this week, Republican Rep. Ed Royce of California, U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman, sent a bipartisan letter signed by 12 other members of the committee to State Secretary Tillerson urging him to relist North Korea as a state sponsor of terrorism following the death of Otto Warmbier, the American national who was jailed by North Korea for “anti-state” activities. The letter read that the designation “will further the case for our diplomatic and economic isolation campaign, and underscore the importance of cutting ties with North Korea.”

U.S. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis likewise told reporters that the United States is not “rushing into war” as he headed to Thailand Wednesday after an Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) defense ministers’ meeting in the Philippines.

“Do we have military options in defense if we’re attacked, our allies are attacked? Of course we do,” Mattis was quoted as saying by AFP. “But everyone is out for a peaceful resolution.”

Mattis, as part of an Asia trip, is scheduled to arrive in Seoul early Friday for a two-day visit. He is scheduled to hold the 49th Security Consultative Meeting (SCM) with Korean Defense Minister Song Young-moo on Saturday, after the heads of the two countries’ Joint Chiefs of Staff will also hold a Military Committee Meeting (MCM) the previous day.

BY SARAH KIM [kim.sarah@joongang.co.kr]