North Korean foreign minister Ri Su Yong speaking at the U.N. General Assembly in September. Ri appeared before the U.N. on Tuesday in Geneva, and stated the continuation of joint military exercises between the U.S. and South Korea could "ignite war." Photo courtesy Kim Haughton/UN Photo
GENEVA, Switzerland, March 3 (UPI) -- North Korea's top foreign envoy said at a United Nations-backed disarmament conference that his country has the capability to deter the United States and launch preemptive strikes if necessary.
Speaking in Geneva on Tuesday, Ri Su Yong, a veteran North Korean diplomat, said the United States has pushed the reclusive regime to nuclear weapons production, reported Yonhap.
On Sunday North Korea fired two short-range ballistic missiles into the Sea of Japan in response to the launch of joint military exercises between the United States and South Korea.
The U.S. military command in South Korea has called the exercises "nonprovocative," but Pyongyang disagrees. North Korea's official news agency has accused both the United States and South Korea of using the exercise as a "smokescreen" for an "invasion of the North."
On Tuesday in Geneva Ri said the joint military exercises this year is even more provocative than previous times and their continuation could "ignite war."
He also said North Korea believes the U.S. continues to deliver ballistic-missile submarines from bases in Guam and the U.S. mainland.
Ri himself was the subject of much speculation after he was reported missing and even rumored to have been executed in December 2013 along with Jang Song Thaek, an uncle of current North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, reported Yonhap.
In 2014 he was appointed North Korean foreign minister and spoke to the U.N. General Assembly in New York to defend the North Korean regime's nuclear policy and to call for a confederation between the two Koreas.
Ri is a close confidante of the ruling Kim family. Yonhap reports he was the primary guardian of Kim Jong Un when the young Kim attended an exclusive boarding school in Switzerland. He also served as the money manager for previous leader Kim Jong Il, while serving as a North Korean envoy in various Western Europen countries.