Japan's Abe says North Korea threat demands 'entirely distinct' response

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The threat posed by North Korea after its multiple missile and nuclear tests this year is “substantially more serious” than it was in the past and demands an “entirely distinct” response, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said on Wednesday.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe addresses the 71st United Nations General Assembly in Manhattan, New York, U.S. September 21, 2016. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

In an address to the annual United Nations General Assembly, Abe said the world needed to thwart North Korea’s plans and it was time for the U.N. Security Council to “indicate an unmistakable attitude to this threat.”

Abe said that this year alone, North Korea had launched a total of 21 ballistic missiles and had conducted two nuclear tests, the most recent on Sept. 9.

“The threat has now reached a dimension altogether different from what has transpired until now,” Abe said, adding that it was “substantially more serious than before.”

“We must therefore respond to this in a manner entirely distinct from our responses thus far. We must concentrate our strengths and thwart North Korea’s plans,” Abe said, adding that Japan would “lead” Security Council discussions on the issue.

U.N. diplomats say discussions are under way on a possible new U.N. sanctions resolution on North Korea after its latest nuclear test. Analysts and diplomats say much depends on the attitude of China.

China is the main ally of neighboring North Korea, but has been angered by its repeated missile and nuclear tests and backed tough U.N. sanctions on Pyongyang in March. At the same time, it has repeatedly called for a return to international talks to resolve the issue, in spite of the skepticism of other world powers.

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang told the General Assembly on Wednesday that countries must remain committed to denuclearization of the Korean peninsula, while seeking a solution to the North Korean nuclear issue through dialogue.

The United States said Li and U.S. President Barack Obama agreed in New York on Monday to step up cooperation in the U.N. Security Council and in law enforcement channels

China and the United States are also targeting the finances of Liaoning Hongxiang Industrial, a Chinese conglomerate headed by a Communist Party cadre that the Obama administration thinks has a role in assisting North Korea’s nuclear program, the Wall Street Journal reported this week.

China’s Foreign Ministry said the Liaoning Hongxiang Group was under investigation following the provisions of U.N. resolution 2270, which imposed tighter sanctions on North Korea in March.

Reporting by David Brunnstrom; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama