Leaders vow stronger pressure on North Korea

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Trump, Moon condemn Pyongyang's latest missile test

SEOUL: United States President Donald Trump and his South Korean counterpart have pledged "stronger pressure" on Pyongyang, Seoul said yesterday, after North Korea defied tough new sanctions with a missile test and said it wants to match the US' nuclear strength.

The international community is scrambling to contain an increasingly belligerent North Korea, which in recent weeks prompted global alarm by conducting its sixth and largest nuclear test and firing long-range missiles over Japan that it says could reach the US mainland.

In a phone conversation yesterday, South Korean President Moon Jae In and Mr Trump "gravely condemned" last Friday's missile test, which came just days after the United Nations (UN) Security Council announced a raft of new sanctions against Pyongyang.

"The two leaders agreed on more practical and stronger pressure... to make the North Korean regime realise that further provocation will only bring stronger diplomatic isolation and economic pressure, leading to a path of collapse," the South's presidential office said.

Pyongyang says it needs nuclear weapons to protect itself from "hostile" US forces and is determined to build a weapons system capable of delivering a nuclear warhead to hit the US mainland.


North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, who oversaw the latest missile test, has said the launch increased the "combat power of the nuclear force", according to the country's official KCNA news agency.

He said the launch is part of the country's plan to achieve "equilibrium of real force" with the US.

Experts believe Pyongyang's weapons programme has made rapid progress under Mr Kim, with previous sanctions having done little to deter it.

The Security Council, which has condemned Friday's launch as "highly provocative", will hold a new ministerial-level meeting on Thursday on the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, focused on enforcing sanctions on Mr Kim's regime, diplomats said.

The meeting will be held during the annual General Assembly gathering of world leaders at the UN, where Mr Trump will meet the leaders of Japan and South Korea on the sidelines to address the crisis.

Meanwhile, US ally Kuwait has given North Korea's ambassador a month to leave and will downgrade its diplomatic representation with Pyongyang, a senior Kuwaiti diplomat said.

Kuwait will also not renew permits given to North Korean workers to re-enter the country after projects they are working on are completed "within one or two years". - AFP

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