Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon said British cities closer to Kim Jong-un’s missiles than some American targets are at risk from North Korea’s long-range nuclear missile programme
Any military confrontation between America and North Korea had to be avoided “at all costs”, he said, but warned that the chance of an accidental clash was “extremely great”.
www.telegraph.co.uk reports that Sir Michael spoke as the Nato secretary general, Jens Stoltenberg, said the Pyongyang regime now posed a “global threat”.
Donald Trump has warned that attempts by Pyongyang to intimidate or threaten America will be met with “fire and fury”.
Sir Michael told the BBC: “The US is fully entitled to defend its own territory, to defend its bases and to look after its people, but this involves us, London is closer to North Korea and its missiles than Los Angeles.”
Asked if a North Korean missile could now could hit London, he said: “Not yet, but they are clearly accelerating their missile programme.
“The range is getting longer and longer and we have to get this programme halted because the dangers now of miscalculation, of some accident triggering a response are extremely great.”
Both Britain and America have been taken aback by recent leaps forward in North Korea’s nuclear and missile programmes.
The regime has test launched a series of increasingly long range missiles and earlier this month detonated its biggest ever hydrogen bomb.
At the start of the year it was estimated that North Korea would need a decade before they could launch intercontinental ballistic missile with nuclear warheads, Government sources said. That has now been slashed to just a few years.
Sir Michael said he was “very concerned” about the showdown.
He said: “We are doing now what we can to bring about a diplomatic solution. What we have to avoid at all costs is this spilling over into any kind of military conflict.
“We are working flat out at the United Nations to get a better deal there, to reinforce the existing sanctions, we are looking at sanctions across the European Union and of course we are trying to persuade China to keep its neighbour in check.”
Western diplomats are attempting to convince China that unless it uses its influence to rein in Kim Jong-un, Beijing risks either a US-backed coalition toppling its ally or a Nato-style defensive alliance growing up in the region.
“China doesn’t want either of those things happening,” said one Government source.
North Korea’s “reckless behaviour” is now a global threat and requires a global response, Mr Stoltenberg said.
He would not speculate on whether an attack on the US Pacific territory of Guam would trigger Nato’s collective defence agreement and draw US allies into a conflict.
He said: “We are now totally focused on how can we contribute to a peaceful solution of the conflict,” he said.
“There is no easy way out of this difficult situation, but at the same time we have to … continue to work for political solution, continue to press also the economic sanctions.”