Kerry warns North Korea not to isolate itself further
US Secretary of State John Kerry yesterday cautioned North Korea against launching a missile, calling it a “huge mistake” that will “further isolate [its] people”.
Speaking in Seoul on the first day of his four-day tour of East Asia, Mr Kerry stated: “If Kim Jong-un decides to launch a missile, whether it’s across the Sea of Japan or some other direction, he will be choosing to wilfully ignore the entire international community,” adding, “it will be a provocation and unwanted act that will raise people’s temperatures”.
The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, as North Korea is officially called, has intensified its bellicose rhetoric over the past few months, since further UN sanctions were imposed on it because of nuclear testing in February.
Pyongyang has closed a military hotline between itself and South Korea, and says it can no longer guarantee the safety of diplomatic staff in South Korea, urging their withdrawal and, reportedly, moved two Musudan ballistic missiles to its East Coast. Some estimates suggest these missiles have a range of 2,500 miles (4,000km), putting US bases on Guam within their reach.
In his speech, Mr Kerry made it clear that the US would protect itself and its allies from any missile strike. The US has nine warships in the Pacific armed with sophisticated ballistic missile defence systems.
Mr Kerry said the US was keen to begin a dialogue with Pyongyang. However, he declared that “no one is going to talk for the sake of talking” and that North Korea must be prepared to live up to the international obligations it has accepted and be committed to denuclearisation.
Mr Kerry was also clear on the role China (North Korea’s lifeline) should play in defusing tensions: “No country in the world has as close a relationship or as significant an impact on the DPRK than China. China has an enormous ability to help make a difference here.”
Mr Kerry took this message to Beijing, where he continued his tour today.
In discussions with President Xi Jinping, the US Secretary of State said the world was facing a “critical time” and that if Beijing wanted denuclearisation in North Korea they must “put some teeth” into their calls for restraint.
China has thus far been loath to pressurise Pyongyang, fearing greater instability and rasher action on the part of the North Korean leadership.
Mr Kerry’s tour will conclude tomorrow when he will visit the Japanese capital, Tokyo.