GENEVA/SEOUL, September 5 (Reuters) – A top North Korean diplomat warned on Tuesday that his country is ready to send “more gift packages” to the United States as world powers struggled for a response to Pyongyang’s latest nuclear weapons test.
Han Tae Song, ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, confirmed that North Korea, officially known as the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), had successfully conducted its sixth and largest nuclear bomb test on Sunday.
“The recent self-defence measures by my country, DPRK, are a
gift package addressed to none other than the U.S.,” Han told a disarmament conference.
“The U.S. will receive more ‘gift packages’ from my country as long as its relies on reckless provocations and futile attempts to put pressure on the DPRK,” he added without elaborating.
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley on Monday accused North Korean leader Kim Jong Un of “begging for war” with a series of nuclear bomb and missile tests. She urged the 15-member Security Council to impose the “strongest possible” sanctions to deter him and shut down his trading partners.
But Russia’s U.N. Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia said on Tuesday that a U.S. bid for the Security Council to vote on Sept. 11 on new sanctions is “a little premature.” Russia is a permanent member of the Security Council and has veto power.
“I don’t think we’ll be able to rush it so fast,” Nebenzia told reporters. Russian President Vladimir Putin earlier on Tuesday described more sanctions as a “road to nowhere.”
Sanctions have done little to stop North Korea boosting its nuclear and missile capacity as it faces off with U.S. President Donald Trump who has vowed to stop Pyongyang from being able to hit the mainland United States with a nuclear weapon.
Haley acknowledged on Tuesday that more sanctions on North Korea are unlikely to change its behavior but would cut off funding for its ballistic missile and nuclear programs.
“Do we think more sanctions are going to work on North Korea? Not necessarily,” she told the American Enterprise Institute think tank in Washington. “But what does it do? It cuts off the revenue that allows them to build ballistic missiles.”
Diplomats have said the Security Council could consider banning North Korean textile exports, banishing its national airline and stopping supplies of oil to the government and military.
Other measures could include preventing North Koreans from working abroad and adding top officials to a blacklist aiming at imposing asset freezes and travel bans.
China accounted for 92 percent of North Korea’s trade in 2016, according to South Korea’s government. China’s foreign ministry said on Tuesday it would take part in Security Council discussions in “a responsible and constructive manner”.
The U.S. dollar fell on Tuesday, hitting a one-week low against the yen and on track for its biggest decline in eight days against a basket of currencies, partly on concerns about North Korea.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe spoke by telephone on Tuesday and agreed that sanctions against Pyongyang should be stepped up.
South Korea said on Tuesday an agreement with its ally the United States to scrap a weight limit on its warheads would help it respond to North Korea’s nuclear and missile threat.
South Korea’s Asia Business Daily, citing an unidentified source, reported that North Korea had been observed moving a rocket that appeared to be an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) towards its west coast.
The rocket started moving on Monday and was spotted moving only at night to avoid surveillance, the newspaper said.
South Korea’s defence ministry, which warned that North Korea was ready to launch an ICBM at any time, said it was not able to confirm the report.
Analysts and South Korean policymakers believe North Korea may test another weapon on or around Sept. 9, when it celebrates its founding day.
North Korea says it needs to develop its weapons to defend itself against what it sees as U.S. aggression.
South Korea, after weeks of rising tension, is talking to the United States about deploying aircraft carriers and strategic bombers to the Korean peninsula, and has been ramping up its own defences.
Trump and his South Korean counterpart, Moon Jae-in, agreed on Monday to scrap a warhead weight limit on South Korea’s missiles, South Korea’s presidential office said, enabling it to strike North Korea with greater force in the event of war.
The White House said Trump gave “in-principle approval” to the move.
South Korea and the United States are technically still at war with North Korea after the 1950-53 Korean conflict ended with a truce, not a peace treaty.
Both sides have thousands of rockets and artillery pieces aimed at each other across the world’s most heavily armed border.