Julie Bishop hits back at North Korea after it warned Australia to 'think twice' about opposing its nuclear missile program

US Vice President Mike Pence with Australian foreign minister Julie Bishop. Photo: David Moir-Pool/ Getty Images.

North Korea has warned Australia of a possible nuclear strike if it continues “blindly and zealously toeing the US line”.

It comes after Australian foreign minister Julie Bishop last week said the North Korea’s nuclear weapons program posed a “serious threat” to Australia and would be subject to further Australian sanctions.

A North Korean foreign ministry spokesman criticised Bishop for “spouting a string of rubbish against the DPRK over its entirely just steps for self-defence” in a report published by the north’s state news agency (KCNA).

“If Australia persists in following the US moves to isolate and stifle the DPRK and remains a shock brigade of the US master, this will be a suicidal act of coming within the range of the nuclear strike of the strategic force of the DPRK,” KCNA reported on Saturday.

“The Australian foreign minister had better think twice about the consequences to be entailed by her reckless tongue-lashing before flattering the US.”

However Bishop has not backed down and yesterday issued a statement saying North Korea’s threats “further underlines the need for the regime to abandon its illegal nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs”.

“These present a grave threat to its neighbours, and if left unchecked, to the broader region including Australia,” she said.

“The North Korean government should invest in the welfare of its long-suffering citizens, rather than weapons of mass destruction.”

Lowy Institute director of International Security Euan Graham told the SMH that North Korea had not yet successfully tested a missile that could reach Australia – but “they probably will within the life of the Trump administration”.

Other security experts have suggested an attack on Australia would be made on Pine Gap — a joint US-Australian intelligence facility, located a few kilometres southwest of Alice Springs.

US vice president Mike Pence was in Australia over the weekend, during which time North Korea’s nuclear threat dominated talks with prime minister Malcolm Turnbull.

Pence praised Turnbull for publicly calling on China to do more to pressure North Korea.

He also said if China was unable to deal with North Korea, “the United States and our allies will”.

Last week North Korea planned on using a national commemoration to conduct its sixth nuclear test. It failed just seconds after launch.

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