Australia has condemned North Korea after it said it had successfully tested a new intercontinental ballistic missile capable of hitting “anywhere in the world”.
Foreign Minister Julie Bishop called it a provocative act that is in breach of numerous United Nations Security Council resolutions.
“North Korea continues to threaten its neighbours while undermining regional and global security,” Ms Bishop said in a statement.
“North Korea’s long-term interests would be best served by ceasing its nuclear and missiles programs and focusing on improving the lives of its long-suffering people.”
The statement echoed her remarks after a North Korean missile test in April.
US Vice President Mike Pence was visiting Australia when that test occurred and declared the “era of strategic patience” over.
Ms Bishop said North Korea was “on a path to achieving nuclear weapons capability and we believe Kim Jong-un has a clear ambition to develop an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of carrying a nuclear payload as far as the US”.
“That would mean Australia would be in reach,” Ms Bishop said.
North Korea said its new intercontinental ballistic missile was capable of hitting “anywhere in the world”. (Supplied: KCTV)
Australia ‘blindly and zealously toeing the US line’
Those comments angered North Korea, which singled out the US deployment of marines to Darwin as evidence of preparation for war.
A North Korean Foreign Ministry spokesman said Australia was “blindly and zealously toeing the United States line”.
“If Australia persists in following the US’ moves to isolate and stifle North Korea … this will be a suicidal act of coming within the range of the nuclear strike of the strategic force of North Korea,” the spokesman said.
Defence Industry Minister Christopher Pyne responded by saying the location of US marines in Darwin was a longstanding government policy.
“It’s not in any way a preparation for a conflagration on the Korean Peninsula,” he said.
“Obviously, we want to avoid any such military action and we want the North Koreans to behave as well as they can, like reasonable, international citizens.
“That means ending their missile testing and not preparing for a nuclear war with either the United States, Japan, South Korea or anyone else for that matter.”
In April, he said North Korea did not yet have the capability to put a nuclear warhead on a ballistic missile that would reach Australia.
“And one of the reasons why the Trump administration is strengthening its attitude in North Korea is to avoid North Korea ever having that capability,” Mr Pyne said.
“And for that reason, Australia supports the United States’ actions very strongly.
“And we call on China to take the lead role as the nation with the most influence over North Korea in bringing that about.”
Australia’s Defence White Paper released last year said North Korea would continue to be a major source of regional instability.
The document warned North Korea’s threatening behaviour included its nuclear weapons program, its ballistic missile tests, and its proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their delivery systems.
The White Paper referred to Pyongyang seeking to engineer crises, “often using threats of nuclear escalation or ballistic missile tests, to try to extract aid and concessions from the international community”.
The launch was the latest in a string of recent test-firings from North Korea. (Reuters: Kim Hong-Ji)