North Korea threat­ens to sink Ja­pan and turn US to 'ashes and dark­ness'

The Guardian Australia - - Front Page - Justin McCurry in Tokyo

North Korea has threat­ened to sink Ja­pan and said the US should be “beaten to death like a ra­bid dog” af­ter the two coun­tries spear­headed fresh UN se­cu­rity coun­cil sanc­tions in re­sponse to the regime’s re­cent nu­clear test.

The Korea Asia-Pa­cific peace com­mit­tee, which over­sees North Korea’s re­la­tions with the out­side world, de­scribed the UN se­cu­rity coun­cil, which passed a new round of sanc­tions on Mon­day, as a “tool of evil” in the pay of Wash­ing­ton, and called for it to be bro­ken up.

It is the first time that Py­ongyang has is­sued an ex­plicit threat to Ja­pan since it fired a medium-range bal­lis­tic mis­sile over the north­ern Ja­panese is­land of Hokkaido at the end of last month, trig­ger­ing emer­gency sirens and mass text alerts.

“The four is­lands of the [Ja­panese] ar­chi­pel­ago should be sunken into the sea by the nu­clear bomb of Juche,” the com­mit­tee said in a state­ment car­ried by the of­fi­cial KCNA news agency. Juche is the ide­ol­ogy of self-reliance pi­o­neered by Kim Il-sung, the coun­try’s founder and grand­fa­ther of the cur­rent leader, Kim Jong-un.

“Ja­pan is no longer needed to ex­ist near us,” the com­mit­tee added.

The 15-mem­ber se­cu­rity coun­cil voted unan­i­mously in sup­port of a US-drafted res­o­lu­tion con­demn­ing the mis­sile test and im­pos­ing mea­sures that in­clude a ban on North Korean tex­tile im­ports and re­stric­tions on oil ex­ports to the coun­try.

In re­sponse, the com­mit­tee said the US should be “beaten to death like a ra­bid dog” for the “heinous sanc­tions res­o­lu­tion”.

“Let’s re­duce the US main­land into ashes and dark­ness. Let’s vent our spite with mo­bil­i­sa­tion of all re­tal­i­a­tion means which have been pre­pared till now,” it said.

Ja­pan’s top govern­ment spokesman, Yoshi­hide Suga, de­scribed the state­ment as “ex­tremely provoca­tive and egre­gious”.

He added: “It is some­thing that markedly height­ens re­gional ten­sion and is ab­so­lutely un­ac­cept­able.”

A new re­port has claimed that the det­o­na­tion on 3 Septem­ber of what North Korea claimed was a hy­dro­gen bomb in­volved a de­vice with an es­ti­mated yield of 250 kilo­tons – mak­ing it far more pow­er­ful than ini­tially thought.

The US-based 38 North web­site noted that the Com­pre­hen­sive Test Ban Treaty Or­gan­i­sa­tion had re­vised up­wards the seis­mic power cre­ated by the test from mag­ni­tude 5.8 to 6.1.

It added: “This re­vi­sion is sig­nif­i­cant be­cause, rather than pro­vid­ing an equiv­a­lent yield of about 120 kilo­tons de­rived from the lower mag­ni­tude es­ti­mates, the ap­pli­ca­tion of stan­dard for­mula with ap­pro­pri­ate con­stants shows that the yield can now be es­ti­mated to have been roughly 250 kilo­tons (one quar­ter mega­ton).

“Re­gard­less of whether this most re­cent test was an op­er­a­tional war­head for an ICBM [in­ter­con­ti­nen­tal bal­lis­tic mis­sile] or sim­ply a de­vice, the yield of the test clearly shows North Korean progress in in­creas­ing the yields of their nu­clear weapons.”

Af­ter weeks of height­ened ten­sions and threats em­a­nat­ing from Py­ongyang and Wash­ing­ton, there are signs that US and other of­fi­cials may be at­tempt­ing to en­gage the regime diplo­mat­i­cally.

Ja­pan’s pub­lic broad­caster NHK claimed on Thurs­day that US and North Korean of­fi­cials had met “se­cretly” on the side­lines of a se­cu­rity fo­rum in Switzer­land ear­lier this month.

The re­port did not of­fer details, but said that Choe Kang-il, deputy direc­tor gen­eral for North Amer­i­can af­fairs at the North Korean for­eign min­istry, and Evans Re­vere, a for­mer se­nior of­fi­cial at the state de­part­ment, had raised North Korea’s bal­lis­tic mis­sile and nu­clear tests.

While Ja­pan’s prime min­is­ter, Shinzo Abe, has re­fused to con­sider ne­go­ti­a­tions un­less Py­ongyang aban­dons its nu­clear weapons pro­gramme, an MP has claimed that sup­port is ris­ing in­side the gov­ern­ing Lib­eral Demo­cratic party for pos­si­ble en­gage­ment with the regime.

An­to­nio Inoki, a for­mer pro­fes­sional wrestler, said he had spo­ken to sev­eral un­named LDP MPs who sup­ported send­ing a del­e­ga­tion of Ja­panese par­lia­men­tar­i­ans to Py­ongyang in an at­tempt to defuse ten­sions.

“We are see­ing a sit­u­a­tion where [Don­ald Trump and Kim Jong-un] is rais­ing his fist, and the sit­u­a­tion is es­ca­lat­ing,” said Inoki, who met North Korea’s top diplo­mat, Ri Suy­ong, and other of­fi­cials dur­ing a trip to Py­ongyang last week. “It’s im­por­tant to see who can be the first to lower his fist and re­duce ten­sions.”

The 74-year-old, who has vis­ited North Korea 32 times, said LDP law­mak­ers had be­come more re­cep­tive to the idea of di­a­logue. “The po­lit­i­cal wind has changed di­rec­tion,” he said, adding that North Korean of­fi­cials were re­cep­tive to the idea. “I made a pro­posal and was told they would be happy to re­ceive such a del­e­ga­tion.”

In an­other ges­ture ap­par­ently aimed at low­er­ing the diplo­matic tem­per­a­ture, South Korea’s govern­ment is con­sid­er­ing an $8m (£6m) aid pack­age for North Korea.

Seoul sus­pended aid to North Korea, pro­vided via UN agen­cies, af­ter the regime con­ducted nu­clear and mis­sile tests in 2016. But un­der a pro­posal that could be ap­proved next week, the South would pro­vide $4.5m to a World Food Pro­gramme project to help in­fants and preg­nant women, and $3.5m to Unicef, ac­cord­ing to Yon­hap news agency.

“The govern­ment’s ba­sic stance is that hu­man­i­tar­ian as­sis­tance to those who are vul­ner­a­ble in North Korea should be con­tin­ued re­gard­less of po­lit­i­cal con­sid­er­a­tions,” Yon­hap quoted a uni­fi­ca­tion min­istry of­fi­cial in Seoul as say­ing.

“Seoul plans to de­cide the details of the aid and its tim­ing af­ter tak­ing into ac­count the in­ter-Korean sit­u­a­tion,” he added.

Pho­to­graph: STR/AFP/Getty Im­ages

North Korea’s in­ter­me­di­ate-range strate­gic bal­lis­tic rocket Hwa­song-12 lift­ing off near Py­ongyang.

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