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Protests in South Korea as nations wrestle with North missile threat

10 September 2017

Sweden has urged its citizens to refrain from unnecessary trips to North Korea following the country's sixth and most powerful nuclear test to date. In July, it tested two intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) that appeared to bring much of the mainland United States into range.

Gallup Korea began asking South Koreans the question in 1992, and the percentage of respondents this time who thought the North would not start a war was the second highest since then.

North Korea's most influential newspaper, Rodong Sinmun, in its front page praised the country for becoming an "invincible nuclear power" after having succeeded in possessing an atomic bomb, a hydrogen bomb and even an intercontinental ballistic missile. Previous year on Foundation Day - a September 9 holiday that marks the 1948 foundation of the country - North Korea celebrated with a nuclear test.

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Tension on the Korean peninsula has escalated as North Korea's young leader, Kim Jong-Un, has stepped up the development of weapons, testing a string of missiles this year, including one flying over Japan, and conducting its sixth nuclear test on Sunday.

On the occasion of the 69th founding anniversary, North Korea's official media reported that Kim received a congratulatory message from Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The announcement by the Swedish Foreign Affairs Ministry on Friday came hours after Mexico's government said it declared North Korean Ambassador Kim Hyong Gil as persona non grata and ordered him to leave the country within 72 hours in response to Sunday's nuke test.

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"I would prefer not going the route of the military, but it's something certainly that could happen", Trump said at a press conference.

The clashes came as South Korean President Moon Jae-in and Japanese Prime Minster Shinzo Abe met in Russia's Far East and repeated their calls for stronger punishment of North Korea over its nuclear ambitions, including denying the country oil supplies. "Is it inevitable? Nothing is inevitable", said Mr Trump. The official also said the North could choose the founding anniversary of the ruling Workers' Party on Oct 10 to hold another test.

Even as Trump has insisted that now is not the time to talk, senior members of his administration have made clear that the door to a diplomatic solution is open, especially given the United States assessment that any pre-emptive strike would unleash massive North Korean retaliation.

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South Korea and the United States are technically still at war with North Korea after the 1950-53 Korean conflict ended with a truce, not a peace treaty.

Protests in South Korea as nations wrestle with North missile threat