US limits North Korea foreign minister’s travel after latest missile test

North Korea says it has successfully test-fired a ballistic missile from a submarine – a worrying development because mastering the ability to fire missiles from submerged vessels would make it harder for outsiders to detect what North Korea is doing before it launches.

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State Department spokesman John Kirby says because of the missile firing, the US has determined it necessary to limit the travel of the visiting foreign minister and his delegation to only those places necessary for them to conduct their UN functions.

Foreign Minister Ri Su Yong is in New York for a UN meeting on sustainable development.

North Korea will halt nuclear tests if US ends drills, says foreign minister

North Korea’s foreign minister says his country is ready to halt its nuclear tests if the US suspends its annual military exercises with South Korea.

Foreign Minister Ri Su Yong also defended the country’s right to maintain a nuclear deterrent and warned that North Korea won’t be cowed by  international sanctions.

And for those waiting for the North’s regime to collapse, he had  this to say: Don’t hold your breath.

Ri Su Yong, in his first interview with a  Western news organisation, held firm to Pyongyang’s longstanding

position that the US drove his country to develop nuclear weapons as an act of self-defence.

At the same time, he suggested that suspending the military exercises with Seoul could open the door to talks and reduced tensions.

“If we continue on this path of confrontation, this will lead to very catastrophic results, not only for the two countries but for the whole entire world as well,” he said, speaking in Korean through an interpreter.

“It is really crucial for the United States government to withdraw its hostile policy against the DPRK and as an expression of this stop the military exercises, war exercises, in the Korean Peninsula. Then we will respond likewise.”

He used the acronym for North Korea’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

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Ri, who spoke calmly and in measured words, a contrast to the often bombastic verbiage used by the North’s media, claimed the North’s proposal was “very logical.”

“Stop the nuclear war exercises in the Korean Peninsula, then we should also cease our nuclear tests,” he said, during the interview, conducted in the country’s diplomatic mission to the United Nations.

He spoke beneath portraits of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jung Il, North Korea’s two previous leaders – the grandfather and father of current leader Kim Jong Un.

If the exercises are halted “for some period, for some years,” he added, “new opportunities may arise for the two countries and for the whole entire world as well.”

Ri’s comments to the AP came just hours after North Korea test-fired a ballistic missile from a submarine in its latest show of defiance as the US-South Korea exercises wind down.

He referred to the launch in the context of current tensions caused by the military exercises.

“The escalation of this military exercise level has reached its top level. And I think it’s not bad – as the other side is going for the climax – why not us, too, to that level as well?”

It is extremely rare for top North Korean officials to give interviews to foreign media, and particularly with Western news organisations.

North Korea says missile test ‘great success’

North Korea says a submarine-launched ballistic missile test was a “great success” that gave the country “one more means for powerful nuclear attack.”

It claims the test, supervised by leader Kim Jong Un, was a “great success” that gave the country “one more means for powerful nuclear attack.”

North Korea fired one missile from a submarine off its east coast on Saturday, South Korea’s military said, amid concerns that the isolated state might conduct a nuclear test or a missile launch ahead of a rare ruling party meeting in May.

The missile flew for about 30km, a South Korean Defence Ministry official said, adding its military was trying to determine whether the launch may have been a failure for unspecified reasons.

But the North’s official news agency KCNA said an underwater test-fire of a ballistic missile was “another great success,” without disclosing the date and place of the event which was guided by leader Kim.

“It fully confirmed and reinforced the reliability of the Korean-style underwater launching system and perfectly met all technical requirements for carrying out … underwater attack operation,” KCNA said.

“The successful test-fire would help remarkably bolster the underwater operational capability of the KPA navy, he said, adding that it is now capable of hitting the heads of the South Korean puppet forces and the US imperialists anytime as it pleases,” it said, quoting Kim. KPA refers to the North’s military.

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The US Strategic Command said on Saturday it had detected and tracked a North Korean submarine missile launch but it did not pose a threat to North America.

State Department spokesman John Kirby said launches using ballistic missile technology were “a clear violation of multiple UN Security Council resolutions.”

France on Saturday called on the European Union to unilaterally adopt additional sanctions on North Korea if the missile launch was confirmed.

North Korea first attempted a launch of the submarine-based missile last year and was seen to be in the early stages of developing such a weapons system, which could pose a new threat to its neighbours and the United States if it is perfected.

However, a series of test launches were believed to have been failures, and its state media carried footage that appeared to have been edited to fake success, according to experts who have seen the visuals.

North Korea is banned from nuclear tests and activities that use ballistic missile technology under UN sanctions dating to 2006 and most recently adopted in March but it has pushed ahead with work to miniaturise a nuclear warhead and develop an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).

North Korea will hold a congress of its ruling Workers’ Party in early May for the first time in 36 years, at which leader Kim is expected to formally declare the country is a strong military power and a nuclear state.