Sat, Apr 15, 2017 - Page 6 News List

Trump more aggressive: N Korean official

AWAITING ORDERS:North Korean Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Han Song-ryol said of a sixth nuclear test that when ‘the headquarters deems necessary, it will take place’

AP, PYONGYANG

North Korean military officers visit the birthplace of North Korean founder Kim Il-sung in Mangyongdae, just outside Pyongyang, yesterday.

Photo: Reuters

North Korean Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Han Song-ryol yesterday blamed US President Donald Trump for escalating tensions on the Korean Peninsula through his tweets and expansion of military exercises, saying the US was becoming “more vicious and more aggressive” under his leadership than it had been under former US president Barack Obama.

In an interview in Pyongyang, Han also warned the US against provoking North Korea militarily.

“We will go to war if they choose,” he said.

“Now we are comparing Trump’s policy toward the DPRK with the former administration’s and we have concluded that it’s becoming more vicious and more aggressive,” Han said, referring to North Korea by its official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

“Whatever comes from US politicians, if their words are designed to overthrow the DPRK system and government, we will categorically reject them,” he said.

Speaking through an interpreter provided by the ministry, Han was calm and polite, but forceful throughout the 40-minute interview.

Tensions are deepening as the US has sent an aircraft carrier to waters off the peninsula and is conducting its biggest-ever joint military exercises with South Korea.

Meanwhile, Pyongyang recently launched a ballistic missile and some experts say it could conduct another nuclear test at virtually any time.

“That is something that our headquarters decides,” Han said of what would be North Korea’s sixth nuclear test. “At a time and at a place where the headquarters deems necessary, it will take place.”

Regarding prospects for war, Han said: “If the US comes with reckless military maneuvers, then we will confront it with the DPRK’s pre-emptive strike.”

“We’ve got a powerful nuclear deterrent already in our hands and we certainly will not keep our arms crossed in the face of a US pre-emptive strike,” he said.

Many North Korea watchers believe that it could have a viable nuclear warhead and a ballistic missile capable of hitting the US mainland during Trump’s time as president.

However, Han said North Korea blames Trump and the US for the rising tensions.

He cited not only the US-South Korean war games and the deployment of the aircraft carrier, the USS Carl Vinson, but also a tweet Trump posted on Tuesday in which he said the North is “looking for trouble.”

Trump also tweeted that if China does not do its part to rein in Pyongyang’s nuclear ambitions, the US can handle it.

“Trump is always making provocations with his aggressive words,” Han said. “So that’s why. It’s not the DPRK but the US and Trump that makes trouble.”

He dismissed the suggestion Trump made last year during his presidential campaign that he was willing to meet North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, possibly over hamburgers.

“I think that was nothing more than lip service during the campaign to make himself more popular,” Han said.

The annual US-South Korean military exercises have consistently infuriated the North, which views them as rehearsals for an invasion.

Washington and Seoul deny that, but reports that exercises have included “decapitation strikes” aimed at the North’s leadership have fanned Pyongyang’s anger.

“As long as the nuclear threats and blackmail go on with the military exercises, we will carry forward with our national defense buildup, the core of which is the nuclear arms buildup,” Han said.

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