Trump warns North Korea over intercontinental missile tests

South Korean officials say the US President-elect is "clearly aware of the gravity and urgency of the North Korean nuclear threat"

Trump warns North Korea over intercontinental missile tests

Image: Carolyn Kaster AP/Press Association Images

South Korean officials have greeted US President-elect Donald Trump’s tweet on the North Korean nuclear programme as a “clear warning” that the US will not stray from its policy of sanctions against the isolated country.

The US President-elect, who will be inaugurated on 20 January, was responding to a claim by Kim Jong-Un that his country is close to testing an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) - which would be capable of reaching the US.

Mr Trump has dismissed the claim on Twitter saying it “won’t happen.”

South Korea's foreign ministry said Mr Trump's comment - his first mention of the North Korean nuclear issue since the US election in November - showed that he is aware of the threat posed by North’s nuclear programme and could be interpreted as a “clear warning” to Kim Jong-Un.

Foreign ministry spokesman Cho June-hyuck said: "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.

"They are maintaining an unwavering stance on the need for sanctions on North Korea and for close cooperation between South Korea and the US."

Trump has not outlined a policy on North Korea but during the U.S. election campaign indicated he would be willing to talk to the country's leader given the opportunity.

US policy has for several years insisted that North Korea must disarm before talks can take place.

When North Korea carried out two nuclear tests and various missile launches last year, the US and South Korea responded with even tougher sanctions.

In a subsequent tweet, Mr Trump went on to criticise China for not doing enough to stop the North's nuclear programme.

Responding to the comment, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said China's work in trying to ensure the denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula should be obvious to all.

"China's efforts in this regard are perfectly obvious," Mr 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".

Mr Geng also urged the US to appreciate the sensitivity of the Taiwan issue after Mr Trump left open the possibility of meeting Taiwan's president.

Such a move would be a reversal of Washington's longstanding "One China" policy, which means the US recognises Beijing's assertion that Taiwan is a part of its territory.