Trump aware of "urgency" of North Korea nuclear threat : South Korea

A new engine for an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) is tested at a test site at Sohae Space Center in Cholsan County, North Pyongan province in North Korea in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on April 9, 2016.
PHOTO: Reuters

SEOUL - US President-elect Donald Trump's"clear warning" to North Korea shows he is aware of the urgency of the threat posed by its nuclear programme and will not waver from a policy of sanctions against the isolated country, South Korea said on Tuesday.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said on Sunday his nuclear-capable country was close to test-launching an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), raising the prospect of putting parts of the United States in range.

Trump dismissed the claim, saying on Twitter: "It won't happen." South Korea's foreign ministry said Trump's comment, his first mention of the North Korean nuclear issue since the US election in November, could be interpreted as a "clear warning"to the North.

"Because of our active outreach, President-elect Trump and US officials are clearly aware of the gravity and urgency of the North Korean nuclear threat," ministry spokesman Cho June-hyuck told a briefing. "They are maintaining an unwavering stance on the need for sanctions on North Korea and for close co-operation between South Korea and the US".

Trump has not outlined a policy on North Korea but during the US election campaign indicated he would be willing to talk its leader, Kim, given the opportunity.

North Korea president Kim Jong-Un happily inspecting things

  • North Korean leader Kim Jung Un supervises a demonstration of a new rocket engine for the geo-stationary satellite at the Sohae Space Center n this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang September 20, 2016.
  • North Korean leader Kim Jung Un supervises a demonstration of a new rocket engine for the geo-stationary satellite at the Sohae Space Center n this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang September 20, 2016.
  • North Korean leader Kim Jong Un gives field guidance to the newly-built Medical Oxygen Factory in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang September 15, 2016.
  • North Korean leader Kim Jong Un gives field guidance to the newly-built Medical Oxygen Factory in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang September 15, 2016.
  • North Korean leader Kim Jong Un gives field guidance to the Kosan Combined Fruit Farm in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang September 18, 2016.
  • North Korean leader Kim Jong Un (C) smiles as he guides a test fire of a new multiple launch rocket system in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang March 4, 2016.
  • North Korean leader Kim Jong Un provides field guidance to Farm No. 1116 under KPA Unit 810, in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang September 13, 2016.
  • North Korean leader Kim Jong Un provides field guidance to Farm No. 1116 under KPA Unit 810, in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang September 13, 2016.
  • North Korean leader Kim Jong Un provides field guidance to Farm No. 1116 under KPA Unit 810, in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang September 13, 2016.
  • North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is pictured during a test-fire of strategic submarine-launched ballistic missile in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang August 25, 2016.
  • North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is pictured during a test-fire of strategic submarine-launched ballistic missile in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang August 25, 2016.
  • North Korean leader Kim Jong Un provides field guidance during a fire drill of ballistic rockets by Hwasong artillery units of the KPA Strategic Force, in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang September 6, 2016.
  • North Korean leader Kim Jong Un provides field guidance during a fire drill of ballistic rockets by Hwasong artillery units of the KPA Strategic Force, in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang September 6, 2016.
  • North Korean leader Kim Jong Un provides field guidance to Farm No. 1116 under KPA Unit 810, in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang September 13, 2016.
  • North Korean leader Kim Jong Un provides field guidance to Farm No. 1116 under KPA Unit 810, in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang September 13, 2016.
  • North Korean leader Kim Jong Un gives field guidance to the January 18 General Machine Plant in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang on August 10, 2016.
  • North Korean leader Kim Jong Un visits the Sunchon Chemical Complex in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang on August 13, 2016.
  • North Korean leader Kim Jong Un visits the Taedonggang Combined Fruit Farm in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang on August 18, 2016.
  • North Korean leader Kim Jong Un visits the Taedonggang Combined Fruit Farm in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang on August 18, 2016.
  • North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is pictured during a test-fire of strategic submarine-launched ballistic missile in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang August 25, 2016.
  • North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is pictured during a test-fire of strategic submarine-launched ballistic missile in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang August 25, 2016.
  • North Korean leader Kim Jong Un visits the Chollima Building Materials Complex, in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), July 27, 2016.
  • North Korean leader Kim Jong Un visits the newly-built combined fishing-tackle factory under the Korean People's Army (KPA), in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang, July 30, 2016.
  • North Korean leader Kim Jong Un visits the newly-built combined fishing-tackle factory under the Korean People's Army (KPA), in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang, July 30, 2016.
  • North Korean leader Kim Jong Un visits the newly-built combined fishing-tackle factory under the Korean People's Army (KPA), in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang, July 30, 2016.
  • North Korean leader Kim Jong Un visits the newly-built combined fishing-tackle factory under the Korean People's Army (KPA), in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang, July 30, 2016.
  • North Korean leader Kim Jong Un gives field guidance to the January 18 General Machine Plant in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang on August 10, 2016.
  • North Korean leader Kim Jong Un claps during a demonstration of a new large-caliber multiple rocket launching system at an unknown location, in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on March 22, 2016.
  • North Korean leader Kim Jong Un attends an art performance staged by the amateur art groups of KPA units selected in the sixth round of the second-term art performance contest of KPA officers' wives in this undated picture provided by KCNA in Pyongyang on July 16, 2016.
  • North Korean leader Kim Jong Un provides field guidance to the drill for ballistic rocket fire of the Hwasong artillery units of the KPA Strategic Force in this undated picture provided by KCNA in Pyongyang on July 21, 2016.
  • North Korean leader Kim Jong Un visits a Fish Food Factory run by KPA Unit 810, in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), July 24, 2016.
  • North Korean leader Kim Jong Un visits a Fish Food Factory run by KPA Unit 810, in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), July 24, 2016.
  • North Korean leader Kim Jong Un provides field guidance at the Phyongsong Synthetic Leather Factory in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang July 12, 2016.
  • North Korean leader Kim Jong Un provides field guidance to the Paektusan Architectural Institute in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang July 14, 2016.
  • North Korean leader Kim Jong Un looks at a rocket warhead tip after a simulated test of atmospheric re-entry of a ballistic missile, at an unidentified location in this undated file photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang on March 15, 2016.
  • North Korean leader Kim Jong Un reacts during a test launch of ground-to-ground medium long-range ballistic rocket Hwasong-10 in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on June 23, 2016.
  • North Korean leader Kim Jong Un reacts during a test launch of ground-to-ground medium long-range ballistic rocket Hwasong-10 in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on June 23, 2016.
  • North Korean leader Kim Jong Un reacts during a test launch of ground-to-ground medium long-range ballistic rocket Hwasong-10 in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on June 23, 2016.
  • North Korean leader Kim Jong Un gives field guidance to Pyongyang Orphans' Secondary School in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on July 3, 2016.
  • North Korean leader Kim Jong Un gives field guidance to the Pyongyang Terrapin Farm in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on July 6, 2016.
  • North Korean leader Kim Jong Un visits the Taedonggang Pig Farm in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang on August 18, 2016.

He has also been critical of China over the issue. On Monday, Trump said China had benefited from its economic ties with the United States but would not use its influence to help control North Korea.

Responding to the comment, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said China had been pushing for the denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula.

"China's efforts in this regard are perfectly obvious," Geng told a news briefing. "As a permanent member of the UN Security Council we have proactively participated in relevant discussions on the North Korean nuclear issue and have jointly passed several resolutions with other parties. "This shows China's responsible attitude".

The United States has for years dismissed North Korean calls for talks, insisting it must disarm first.

Instead, the United States and ally South Korea have responded to two North Korean nuclear tests and various missile tests last year with ever-more severe sanctions.

The UN Security Council imposed new sanctions on North Korea at the end of November after Pyongyang carried out its fifth and largest nuclear test so far in September.

A North Korean ICBM, once fully developed, could threaten the continental United States, which is about 9,000 km (5,500 miles) from the North.

ICBMs have a minimum range of about 5,500 km (3,400 miles), but some are designed to travel 10,000 km (6,200 miles) or further.

North Korea worked last year on developing components for an ICBM, making the claim that it was close to a test-launch plausible, international weapons experts said on Monday.

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