World

North Korea close to long-range missile capability: French minister

PARIS: France's foreign minister said yesterday that North Korea would have the capability to send long-range ballistic missiles in a few months and urged China to be more active diplomatically to resolve the crisis.

"The situation is extremely serious... we see North Korea setting itself as an objective to have tomorrow or the day after missiles that can transport nuclear weapons," Mr Jean-Yves Le Drian told RTL radio.

"In a few months, that will be a reality. At the moment, when North Korea has the means to strike the United States, even Europe, but definitely Japan and China, then the situation will be explosive."

Mr Le Drian, who spoke to his Chinese counterpart on Thursday, said everything had to be done to ensure a latest round of United Nations sanctions was implemented and urged China, Pyongyang's main trade partner, to do its utmost to enforce them.

"North Korea must find the path to negotiations. It must be diplomatically active."

In a separate development, Russian President Vladimir Putin yesterday warned of a "major conflict" looming on the Korean Peninsula, calling for talks to alleviate the crisis after Pyongyang fired a missile over Japan this week.

"The problems in the region will only be solved via direct dialogue between all concerned parties, without preconditions," Mr Putin said.

"Threats, pressure and insulting and militant rhetoric are a dead end," he said, adding that heaping more pressure on North Korea in a bid to curb its nuclear programme was "wrong and futile".

Tensions on the Korean Peninsula are at their highest point in years.

Early on Tuesday, the reclusive state fired an intermediate-range Hwasong-12 over Japan, prompting US President Donald Trump to insist that "all options" were on the table in an implied threat of pre-emptive military action. - WIRE SERVICES

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