Tokyo: Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe stepped up his rhetoric against North Korea in a speech to the United Nations, saying Kim Jong Un was getting away with worse behaviour than any dictator since the end of the Cold War.

Abe called for pressure on the regime, rather than talks, and again backed US President Donald Trump’s vow to keep all options on the table for dealing with Pyongyang. The Japanese leader has seen his approval rating climb over his handling of Kim’s threats, and he plans to decide on calling a snap election when he returns home.

Abe’s speech came a day after Trump threatened to “totally destroy" North Korea if it attacks the US or its allies. North Korea’s sixth nuclear test, as well as two missile launches over Japan, have heightened tensions in East Asia in recent weeks.

Trump’s latest warnings are the “sound of a dog barking", South Korea’s Yonhap News reported on Thursday, citing North Korean foreign minister Ri Yong Ho, who is in New York for the UN General Assembly. “If he was thinking he could scare us with the sound of a dog barking, that’s really a dog dream," Ri said, according to Yonhap.

Asked to comment on Trump’s new moniker for Kim of “Rocket Man", Ri replied, “I feel sorry for his aides."

In his speech before the UN, Abe said more than a decade of talks with North Korea had yielded only the realization the country never intends to give up its weapons programs. He accused the regime of swindling Japan and other countries out of aid money and urged the international community to follow through strictly on sanctions.

“Whether we can stop North Korean provocations depends on the international community working together," he said. “There is not much time left."

“North Korea is attempting to dismiss with a smirk the efforts towards disarmament we have assiduously undertaken over the years," Abe added. “The non-proliferation regime is about to suffer a serious blow from its most confident disrupter ever."

China and Russia have called for talks with North Korea, while backing progressively stronger UN sanctions. South Korean President Moon Jae-in has repeatedly called on North Korea to enter into dialogue over its nuclear program.

US vice president Mike Pence and Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi “reaffirmed the importance of robust enforcement of United Nations Security Council resolutions, and taking additional steps in response to North Korea’s defiant behaviour," the White House said late Wednesday in a statement after they met. Bloomberg

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