24 Apr 2017

North Korea: 'A lot of sabre-rattling'

8:27 am on 24 April 2017

Australia is taking North Korea's threat of launching a nuclear strike against it very seriously, but its capacity to do so may still be years away.

A military parade in North Korea.

A military parade in North Korea. Photo: AFP

The North Korean foreign ministry has accused Australia of blindly following the United States, and suggested it could be in range of a nuclear attack.

Australian foreign minister Julie Bishop said North Korea's actions represented a grave threat to its neighbours and, if left unchecked, to the broader region including Australia.

But Sydney Morning Herald security correspondent David Wroe told Morning Report that North Korea could not put a nuclear device on the end of a long range missile right now.

"They are making progress in their ballistic missile programme and their nuclear programme. They will be able to deliver a nuclear weapon on an intercontinental ballistic missile at some stage in the coming years. estimates vary, some people say it's as critical as 12 months, some people think it's more like five to 10 years."

Mr Wroe said the best option to avoid military conflict with the United States and its allies was for China to reign in North Korea.

Tensions remain high on the Korean peninsula, with the US warning its "strategic patience" on the North's nuclear programme is over, and a US citizen detained as he tried to leave the country.

New Zealand's Defence Minister Gerry Brownlee said yesterday the North's threats were "outrageous".

He told Morning Report today that it would mean the end of the North Korean regime if it attacked the United States in any way, and "self-preservation is a big motivation for that regime".

"There is a lot of sabre-rattling and attempts to destabilise with outrageous statements. But you have to take it seriously, because you never quite know."

Prime Minister Bill English told Morning Report that China and US were working together to avoid conflict

"The capacity of North Korea to deliver on those threats has yet to be tested, and we don't want it to be tested."

A military parade in North Korea.

A military parade in North Korea. Photo: AFP

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