North Korea has nothing to fear from any move by the United States to broaden sanctions aimed at cutting it off from the global financial system and will pursue "acceleration" of its nuclear and missile programmes, a North Korean envoy said yesterday.

This includes developing a "pre-emptive first strike capability" and an inter-continental ballistic missile (ICBM), said Choe Myong Nam, deputy ambassador at the North Korean mission to the United Nations in Geneva.

Reuters, quoting a senior US official in Washington, reported on Tuesday that the Trump Administration is considering sweeping sanctions as part of a broad review of measures to counter North Korea's nuclear and missile threat.

"I think this is stemming from the visit by the Secretary of State [Rex Tillerson] to Japan, South Korea and China ... We of course are not afraid of any act like that," Choe said.


"Even prohibition of the international transactions system, the global financial system, this kind of thing is part of their system that will not frighten us or make any difference." He called existing sanctions "heinous and inhumane".

North Korea, ruled by Kim Jong Un, has been under sanctions for "half a century" but the communist state survived by placing an emphasis on juche or "self-sufficiency", he said. His country wanted a forum set up to examine the "legality and legitimacy of the sanctions regime".

Meanwhile, North Korea's latest missile launch ended in failure yesterday, the US and South Korean militaries said, three days after the North claimed a major breakthrough in its rocket development programme.

The reported launch failure comes as the North is angrily reacting to ongoing annual US-South Korean military drills that it views as an invasion rehearsal.

Earlier this month, North Korea fired four ballistic missiles that landed in waters off Japan, triggering strong protests from Seoul and Tokyo.

The American military detected what it assessed as a failed North Korean missile launch yesterday morning, the US Pacific Command said in a statement. It said the missile "appears to have exploded within seconds of launch".

South Korea's Defence Ministry said it also believes the launch from the eastern coastal town of Wonsan ended in failure.