North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho addresses the 71st session of the United Nations General Assembly at the UN headquarters in New York on September 23, 2016. (Photo by AFP)
North Korea says the sole way to defend itself against the US is “going nuclear,” two weeks after the country conducted its fifth nuclear blast in the face of crippling sanctions.  
“Going nuclear armed is the policy of our state. As long as there exists a nuclear weapon state in hostile relations with the DPRK (North Korea), our national security and the peace on the Korean peninsula can be defended only with reliable nuclear deterrence,” North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho said while addressing the 71st session of the UN General Assembly in New York on Friday.
Ri’s comments came after Pyongyang carried out a “successful nuclear warhead explosion”, its fifth so far and the second this year, on September 9. Authorities in South Korea at the time described it as the North’s biggest nuclear test ever. The North has also test-fired over 20 missiles this year alone.
Following the latest nuclear test, Pyongyang claimed that it had significantly pushed forward its nuclear capabilities and managed to test a miniaturized nuclear bomb for a warhead.
The North would “continue to take measures to strengthen its national nuclear armed forces in both quantity and quality,” Ri further said, adding that these nuclear tests “may not be easily understood by European countries,” which, according to him, were now “less sensitive” to security concerns two decades and a half after the conclusion of the Cold War.
The North’s foreign minister also described the nuclear blasts as “practical counter-measures” against the US and a demonstration of the “strongest-ever will” of North Korea's ruling party and people.
This undated file photo first released by North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on March 22, 2016 shows North Korean leader Kim Jong-un (C) inspecting the operation of a new type large-caliber multiple rocket launching system at an undisclosed location in North Korea. (Photo via AFP)
Pyongyang has pledged to develop a nuclear arsenal in a bid to protect itself from the US military, which occasionally deploys nuclear-powered warships and aircraft capable of carrying atomic weapons in the region.
These activities have concerned Seoul, a US ally, the most and prompted it to consent to the controversial deployment of the US Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system on its soil to further complicate the already volatile situation in the Korean Peninsula.
The system, which has infuriated the North, is scheduled to be installed by the end of 2017 to defend the South against what Seoul and Washington claim to be nuclear and missile threats from North Korea.
Russia had earlier urged the international community to find more “creative” ways to respond to North Korea’s nuclear ambitions than merely imposing sanctions on the country.
The UN Security Council, however, announced on September 9 that it would begin to prepare a fresh round of sanctions against Pyongyang in the wake of its recent nuclear test.