North Korea threatens weekly missile tests as US vice president Pence reassures Japan

As fears grow that North Korea may also be preparing for its sixth nuclear weapons test, vice foreign minister Han Song-Ryol said that its programme would only escalate.

US vice president Mike Pence, right, and Japanese deputy prime minister and minister of finance Taro Aso shake hands during the Japan/US economic dialogue at the prime minister's office in Tokyo on April 18, 2017.  AFP
Powered by automated translation

TOKYO // US vice president Mike Pence reiterated his country’s commitment to the security of Japan on Tuesday, as North Korea intensified concerns over its weapons programme with a vow to launch missile tests “every week”.

The North, which is intent on developing a nuclear-tipped ballistic missile capable of reaching mainland United States, defied international pressure on Sunday with a test that failed immediately after launch.

As fears grow that it may also be preparing for its sixth nuclear weapons test, vice foreign minister Han Song-ryol said that its programme would only escalate.

“We’ll be conducting more missile tests on a weekly, monthly and yearly basis,” Mr Han told the BBC in an interview, threatening “all-out war” if the US took any action against it.

Arriving in Tokyo for talks with Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe, Mr Pence hailed the two countries’ longstanding security ties.

“The alliance between the United States and Japan is the cornerstone of peace and security in Northeast Asia,” he told Mr Abe.

The Japanese leader called for a peaceful resolution to the North Korea tensions but did not rule out the need for tough measures.

“It is a matter of paramount importance for us to seek diplomatic efforts as well as peaceable settlements of the issue,” he said.

“At the same time dialogue for the sake of dialogue is valueless and it is necessary for us to exercise pressure.”

In South Korea on the first leg of an Asian tour, Mr Pence on Monday visited the heavily fortified Demilitarised Zone separating the two Koreas and warned Pyongyang against further provocations, saying "all options are on the table".

* Agence France-Presse