Thu Sep 14, 2017 09:17AM
This file photo from North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), taken on August 29, 2017 and released on August 30, 2017, shows North Korea’s intermediate-range strategic ballistic rocket Hwasong-12 lifting off from the launching pad at an undisclosed location near Pyongyang. (Via AFP)
This file photo from North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), taken on August 29, 2017 and released on August 30, 2017, shows North Korea’s intermediate-range strategic ballistic rocket Hwasong-12 lifting off from the launching pad at an undisclosed location near Pyongyang. (Via AFP)

North Korea has threatened to use nuclear weapons against neighboring Japan and “sink” the island country.

“Japan is no longer needed to exist near us. The four islands of the archipelago should be sunken into the sea by the nuclear bomb of Juche,” North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said on Thursday, citing a statement by the Korea Asia-Pacific Peace Committee.

Juche refers to Pyongyang’s ideology of “self-reliance.”

Shortly after the North’s statement, Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga denounced the comments and described them as “extremely provocative.”

Pyongyang has been extremely critical of Tokyo over the latter’s close ties with Washington, which the North regards as its archenemy. Furthermore, Japan is one of the strong advocates of tougher United Nations (UN) sanctions on North Korea over its nuclear and missile programs.

Late last month, the North launched missile a new intermediate-range missile over Japan’s Hokkaido Island. It landed in the Pacific, some 1,200 kilometers east of the northern island. Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the time described the launch as an “unprecedented, serious and grave threat” and called for a UN Security Council meeting, urging for “increased pressure on North Korea in cooperation with the international community.”

However, the Korea Asia-Pacific Peace Committee, an affiliate of the North’s ruling Workers’ Party, said on Thursday that “A telling blow should be dealt to them [the Japanese] who have not yet come to senses after the launch of our [intercontinental ballistic missile] ICBM over the Japanese archipelago.”

The KCNA had previously said that the missile had been an intermediate-range strategic ballistic missile.

North Korea said on September 3 that it had conducted a successful hydrogen bomb test and that the bomb was small enough to fit on a missile. Experts say the bomb was about three times more powerful than America’s atomic bomb that destroyed Hiroshima in 1945.

This picture, taken on September 3, 2017 and released by North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on September 4, 2017, shows North Korean leader Kim Jong-un (C) attending a meeting with a committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea about the test of a hydrogen bomb, at an unknown location. (Via AFP)

The North Korean test, which was the country’s sixth, prompted the Security Council on Monday to escalate sanctions against Pyongyang by unanimously approving a US-drafted resolution aimed at imposing new bans on the North’s textile exports and a limit on its fuel supplies.

“The army and people of the [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea] DPRK are unanimously demanding that the Yankees, chief culprit in cooking up the ‘sanctions resolution,’ be beaten to death as a stick is fit for a rabid dog,” the North’s committee further said on Thursday, as cited by the KCNA.

“Now is the time to annihilate the US imperialist aggressors. Let’s reduce the US mainland into ashes and darkness,” it went on to say.

North Korea is under mounting international pressure over its missile and military nuclear programs and has been subjected to an array of sanctions by the UN. However, Pyongyang says it needs to continue and develop the programs as a deterrent against hostility by the United States and its regional allies, including South Korea and Japan.

The United States and its allies do not rule out a military option against North Korea, but Russia and China warn that military action is not the solution to crisis.