SEOUL — Secretary of State John Kerry dismissed as “unacceptable by any standard” weeks of bellicose warnings of impending nuclear war by North Korea and said Washington would never accept the reclusive state becoming a nuclear power.
Kerry, addressing reporters after talks with South Korean President Park Geun-hye and leaders of the 28,000-strong US military contingent in the country, also said the United States would defend its allies in the region if necessary.
“The rhetoric we are hearing from North Korea is simply unacceptable by any standard,” Kerry said. “We are all united in the fact that North Korea will not be accepted as a nuclear power.”
North Korea has issued weeks of shrill warnings to the United States and South Korea, including of waging thermonuclear war, after the imposition of new UN sanctions in response to its third nuclear arms test in February.
Kerry’s visit coincides with preparations for the anniversary on Monday of North Korean state founder Kim Il-sung’s birth date, a possible pretext for a military show of strength.
Speculation has mounted that Pyongyang may launch a medium-range missile after reports in South Korea and the United States that missiles had been moved into suitable locations.
Kerry said North Korean leader Kim Jong-un would be making a “huge mistake” if he proceeded with a launch.
He also said that China, the North’s sole diplomatic and financial ally, has the ability to make a difference on influencing China’s policies.
Hours before his arrival, a US government agency said North Korea had a nuclear weapon it can mount on a missile, adding an ominous dimension to discussions in Seoul.
However, the assessment by the Pentagon’s Defence Intelligence Agency was swiftly dismissed by several US officials and South Korea.
Asked if war was imminent, a US official in South Korea said: “Not at all.” (Reuters)