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North Korea’s nuclear weapons programme must be stopped before its missiles can strike the UK , the Defence Secretary has warned.

Sir Michael Fallon argued war with the rogue state must be avoided “at all costs” and underlined the need to reach a diplomatic solution, amid heightened tensions.

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The dangers of a “miscalculation” which could provoke a military action from North Korea were “extremely great”, Sir Michael told the BBC’s Andrew Marr.

Kim Jong Un attended an art performance dedicated to nuclear scientists and technicians

Image: Kim Jong Un attended an event to honour the country’s nuclear scientists

His comments were made as new pictures showed Kim Jong Un attending an event in honour of the country’s nuclear scientists and technicians.

The celebrations followed an announcement by the nation’s state media claiming the regime had detonated a hydrogen bomb with “perfect success”.

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Sir Michael said the UK was “working flat out at the United Nations to get a better resolution there to enforce the existing sanctions.

“We’re looking at sanctions across the European Union, and of course we’re trying to persuade China to keep its neighbour in check.”

North Korea has already launched an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of striking the US mainland, according to some experts.

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Sir Michael said: “The United States is fully entitled to defend its own territory, to defend its bases and look after its people,” said the Defence Secretary.

“But this involves us. London is closer to North Korea and its missiles than Los Angeles.”

London is almost 600 miles closer to Pyongyang (5,370 miles/8,650km) than Los Angeles (5,930 miles/9,550km), but any launch targeting the UK would need to travel over the airspace of another nuclear power – Russia.

Regarding the threat of armed conflict, Russian president Vladimir Putin said: “I am sure that things will not go as far as a large-scale conflict, especially with the use of weapons of mass destruction.”

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Sir Michael said that North Korea did “not yet” have the ability to strike London, but added: “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.

“So we’ve got to work at this problem and bring about a diplomatic solution that stops the development of North Korea’s nuclear programme and enforces the sanctions we have at the moment.”

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