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North Korea official blasts France over nuclear criticism

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North Korea official blasts France over nuclear criticism
Ri Tok-Son, deputy director of the North Korea's foreign ministry European department, made his comments during a Friday press conference in Pyongyang. PHOTO: KIM WON-JIM/AFP
14:30 CEST+02:00
A senior North Korean official has lashed out at France after it warned Pyongyang's nuclear ambition could pose a threat to Europe, saying Paris must abandon its own atomic weapons first.
Ri Tok-Son, deputy director of the foreign ministry's European department, said France's claim that a nuclear missile launched from the North could strike Europe was "preposterous".
 
He stressed that the North's atomic arsenal was a deterrent against US nuclear threats which Paris does not face.
 
"Recently, high ranking French politicians startled the people by saying absurd things with regards to the DPRK's (North Korea's) successful detonation of an H-bomb for ICBM (intercontinental ballistic missile)," Ri said in an interview with AFP in Pyongyang on Friday.
 
The comments came just hours before the US made a formal request for a UN Security Council vote on tough new sanctions against the repressive regime.
 
The North conducted its sixth nuclear test a week ago -- saying it was a hydrogen bomb that could be fitted into a missile -- sparking international condemnation and calls for further measures to force an end to the perilous stand-off.
 
French President Emmanuel Macron called on the UN Sunday to "quickly react" to the escalation and urged the European Union to come up with a "clear and united" response.
 
His foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian warned that North Korea could have the capacity to deliver a nuclear strike on the US and even Europe "within months".
 
In a riposte, Ri said: "They busied themselves ... making preposterous remarks like 'the nuclear missile of North Korea are military means that can strike Europe'". He did not refer to Macron or Le Drian by name.
 
"It is ridiculous to say that the nuclear weapons of the DPRK, the deterrent force against the nuclear threat and blackmail of the US, can aim at Europe", he added.
 
"If nuclear weapons are such bad things, then France should first give up its nuclear weapons since it is not under anyone's nuclear threat."
 
Washington has presented a draft UN resolution calling for an oil embargo on North Korea, an assets freeze on leader Kim Jong-Un, a ban on textiles and an end to payments of North Korean guest workers.
 
While in North Korea, which was marking the nation's founding anniversary Saturday, local media issued fresh calls for a nuclear arms buildup, in defiance of the mounting international sanctions.
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