SEOUL: North Korea's foreign minister called United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres "a puppet of the United States" in slamming him for joining US-led condemnation of the North's recent intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) test.
This came after Guterres issued a statement strongly condemning the ICBM launch last Friday and reiterating his call on Pyongyang "to immediately desist from taking any further provocative actions."
Guterres' statement came after the US and other countries issued similar criticism of the ICBM test that showed a potential to strike anywhere in the continental US.
"I often take the UN secretary-general for a member of the US White House or its State Department," North Korean Foreign Minister Choe Son Hui said in a statement carried by state media. "I express my strong regret over the fact that the UN secretary-general has taken a very deplorable attitude, oblivious of the purpose and principles of the UN Charter and its proper mission which is to maintain impartiality, objectivity and equity in all matters."
Choe accused Guterres of overlooking the US and its allies taking the ICBM test to the UN Security Council, saying "this clearly proves that he is a puppet of the US"
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The Security Council scheduled an emergency meeting for Monday morning on the latest missile test at Japan's request. But it's unclear if it can impose new economic sanctions on North Korea because China and Russia, two of the council's veto-wielding members, have opposed previous moves by the US and its allies to toughen sanctions on the North over its banned tests of ballistic missiles earlier this year.
On Sunday, top diplomats from the world's major industrialized democracies issued a joint statement calling for strong steps by the UN Security Council in reaction to the missile launch.
"[North Korea's] actions demand a united and robust response by the international community, including the need for further significant measures to be taken by the UN Security Council," said the statement by foreign ministers from the Group of Seven nations — Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the US.
Friday's ICBM launch was the latest in North Korea's ongoing torrid run of missile tests that experts say are meant to boost its nuclear capability and increase its leverage in future diplomacy.
Pyongyang said leader Kim Jong Un observed Friday's launch of its Hwasong-17 missile and called it another "reliable and maximum-capacity" weapon to contain US military threats. Some experts say the Hwasong-17 is still under development, but it's the North's longest-range missile and is designed to carry several nuclear warheads to overcome US missile defense systems.
North Korea has argued its testing activities are a warning to the US and South Korea over their series of military drills that the North believes were an invasion rehearsal. Washington and Seoul have maintained that their exercises are defensive in nature.
In her statement, Choe again defended her country's missile tests, calling them a "legitimate and just exercise of the right to self-defense" against "provocative nuclear war rehearsals" by the US and its allies. She said it's "most amazing and deplorable to me" as Guterres still blamed North Korea for a recent flare-up in tensions on the Korean Peninsula, not the US.
A day before the ICBM test, Choe threatened to launch "fiercer" military responses to steps by the US to bolster its security commitment to South Korea and Japan.