SEOUL, Feb 22 (AP): North Korea on Wednesday accused UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres of “an extremely unfair and imbalanced attitude,” as it lambasted him for condemning its recent missile test but ignoring alleged US hostility against the North.
The accusation came as US, South Korean and Japanese destroyers were holding trilateral anti-missile training near the Korean Peninsula, a move the North could regard as a provocation.
After the North’s intercontinental ballistic missile test on Saturday, Guterres strongly condemned the launch and reiterated his call for the North to immediately desist from making any further provocations.
In a statement, Guterres also urged North Korea to resume talks on denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula.
“To be most deplorable, the UN secretary-general is going on the rampage of illogical and miserable remarks, which are little different from those of US State Department officials over the years,” Kim Son Gyong, the North’s vice foreign minister for international bodies, said in a statement carried by state media.
Kim said North Korea’s ICBM test was a response to the security threat the US posed to the North by temporarily deploying long-range bombers for joint training with South Korea earlier this year. Kim said the test was also a warning to the earlier convocation of the UN Security Council on the North.
North Korea views US-South Korea military drills as an invasion rehearsal and is particularly sensitive to the US mobilisation of B-1B bombers that can carry a massive conventional payload of both guided and unguided weapons.
After the North’s ICBM test, the United States flew B-1B bombers again for separate drills with South Korean and Japanese warplanes.
“The UN secretary-general should clearly understand that his unreasonable and prejudiced stand on the Korean Peninsula issue is acting as a factor inciting the hostile acts of the US and its followers against (North Korea),” Kim said.
Last November, North Korean Foreign Minister Choe Son Hui called Guterres “a puppet of the United States” for condemning an earlier ICBM test by the North.
Saturday’s ICBM test, the North’s first missile test since January 1, was made on a steep angle to avoid neighbouring countries.
The reported launch details again suggested the North has missiles that can reach the US mainland.
But many foreign experts say the North still must master some last remaining technologies to acquire functioning nuclear-tipped missiles, such as one shielding missiles from the harsh conditions during atmospheric reentry.
In response to the latest US deployment of B1-B bombers on Sunday, North Korea said its 600-millimeter multiple rocket launcher fired two rounds off its east coast the next day. North Korea has said its rockets can carry nuclear warheads. South Korea views the weapons as a short-range ballistic missile.
In a closed-door briefing at parliament on Wednesday, South Korea’s military intelligence authorities said that North Korea could conduct further provocations such as a nuclear test, a spy satellite launch or an ICBM test on a standard trajectory, according to Yoo Sang-bum, a lawmaker who attended the meeting.
South Korea and the United States are to hold a set of joint military drills in coming weeks, including a table-top exercise set to take place at the Pentagon on Wednesday.
The US-South Korea-Japan exercise on Wednesday took place in international waters off the Korean Peninsula’s east coast.
The three countries were meant to practice procedures to detect, track and intercept missiles while sharing related information among themselves, South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said. It was their first trilateral training in four months.
Last year, North Korea test-launched more than 70 missiles, the most ever in a single year, as part of its efforts to enlarge its weapons arsenal. Observers say the North would eventually want to win international recognition as a legitimate nuclear state and use that status as a way to get UN and other international sanctions on it lifted.