North Korea has nuclear weapons and is prepared to use them in retaliation to a US attack, the DPRK’s ambassador to Britain has said.
In a rare interview, Hyun Hak-bong said the United States is not the only country that can use nuclear weapons.
He claimed North Korea has the ability to fire nuclear missiles at “any time” and would also use conventional warfare to defend itself.
The senior diplomat also attacked allegations of torture made against the secretive nation by North Korean refugees, describing them as “fabricated.”
Speaking to Sky News, the ambassador said: “It is not the United States that has a monopoly on nuclear weapons strikes.”
Journalist Alistair Bunkall pressed the diplomat further, asking: “So can I just be clear: you are telling me that North Korea has the ability now to fire a nuclear missile?”
Hyun Hak-bong replied: “Any time, any time, yes.”
He went on: “If the United States strike us, we should strike back.”
The ambassador said the DPRK would only use nuclear missiles in “retaliation.”
“We are ready for convention war with conventional war [sic], we are ready for nuclear war with nuclear war,” he said.
Bunkall asked: “But you wouldn’t push the button first?”
The diplomat replied: “Well, we are peace loving people. We do not want war, but we are not afraid of war. This is the policy of the government.”
Hyun Hak-bong’s tough rhetoric likely comes in response to joint military exercises currently being carried out by the United States and South Korea.
Around 10,000 South Korean and 8,000 US troops are taking part in the annual land, sea and air operations, according to Voice of America.
Dubbed ‘Foal Eagle’ by the US military, the exercises started on March 2 and will last for eight weeks.
According to a report by military historian Dr John Farrell, while Foal Eagle operations have their origins in the 1960s, the current version of the training exercises began in 1997.
Foal Eagle replaced the previous joint-US and South Korean training exercises called ‘Team Spirit’ because they were deemed to be unrealistically large.
North Korea’s ambassador to the UK also attacked claims of torture made by “defectors,” labeling the refugees “human scum.”
Sky News asked the diplomat about allegations of torture made by North Koreans living in Seoul, the capital of South Korea.
He said: “Those allegations are based on fabricated stories by the defectors from the North.”
“Do you know the difference between human beings and animals? Human beings have a conscience and morality. If they do not have a conscience and a morality they are like nothing.
“They’re animals. That is why we call the defectors animals. They are no better than animals. They’re human scum,” he added.
A UN report on North Korean human rights published in February last year claimed the hermit state was perpetrating crimes similar to those committed by the Nazis during the Second World War.
The UN commission found there was strong evidence to suggest systematic torture, executions, arbitrary imprisonment and deliberate starvation take place in the DPRK.
Michael Kirby, a retired Australian judge who chaired the commission, wrote to Kim Jong-un to warn him he could face trial at the international criminal court (ICC) for “crimes against humanity.”