January 22, 2018
Monday, March 20, 2017

US official: diplomacy with North Korea has ‘failed’

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (left) answers questions beside Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida during a joint press conference after their talks at the Iikura guest house in Tokyo.
TOKYO — The Donald Trump administration made a clear break yesterday with diplomatic efforts to talk North Korea out of a nuclear confrontation, bringing the United States and its Asian allies closer to a military response than at any point in more than a decade.
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said that 20 years of trying to persuade North Korea to abandon its nuclear programme had failed and that he was visiting Asia “to exchange views on a new approach.”
Soon after Tillerson’s remarks, in a sign of mounting tensions, the North Korean Embassy held an extraordinary press conference in Beijing to blame the potential for nuclear war on the United States while vowing that its homegrown nuclear testing programme will continue in self-defence.
North Korea has amassed a huge nuclear stockpile and appears on the brink of being able to strike the US mainland and US allies in Asia. The rising threat from the isolated military dictatorship has prompted the Trump administration to begin assessing its options for how to respond and serves as an early test for how the president will confront an increasingly volatile international situation.
One potential immediate response would be to strengthen existing South Korean missile capabilities or to provide Japan with new offensive missile ability. Japan’s defence chief told Parliament this month that he would not rule out “first strike” capability, which would be a major departure from Japan’s post-war pacifist traditions.
The United States could also field the same THAAD missile-defence system in Japan that it is now installing in South Korea or take the potentially provocative stop of reinstalling US nuclear weapons at US bases in South Korea. The North Korean threat could also rekindle the largely dormant idea of a domestic US missile defence system.
North Korea has boasted of an intercontinental ballistic missile, and experts on Asia security generally agree that such a capability is within Pyongyang’s reach. Preventing it outright would probably require a military strike on North Korean facilities, something the United States has considered an option of last resort because it would almost certainly result in an attack on South Korea and US forces stationed there, perhaps with chemical or biological weapons.

“I think it’s important to recognise that the political and diplomatic efforts of the past 20 years to bring North Korea to the point of denuclearisation have failed,” Tillerson said.
The US secretary of state’s reference to decades of failure alluded to the carrot-and-stick diplomacy that began with a 1994 deal between the United States and North Korea. Under it, Pyongyang would have received aid and two proliferation-resistant nuclear power plants in return for freezing and eventually dismantling its nuclear weapons programme.
That deal collapsed in 2002, and North Korea achieved its first atomic test in 2006. The George W. Bush administration’s efforts at a new deal collapsed, and Pyongyang has managed to build up its stockpile of nuclear material as well as refine its missiles despite what on paper look like crushing international sanctions.
North Korea’s nuclear and missile efforts have intensified under dictator Kim Jong-un, who took power in 2011, and appear to have escalated further since Donald Trump’s election.
The country last month tested a missile that uses solid fuel, a big leap in its technological development, then this month fired a salvo of four missiles, part of what it said was a drill to practise hitting US military bases in Japan. Three of the four missiles landed in waters within Japan’s exclusive economic zone.
Tillerson’s remarks reflected growing agitation in Washington that a tougher stance on North Korea is required.
On Friday, Tillerson will be in South Korea, where more than 20 million people live within range of North Korean artillery. South Korea is conducting joint military exercises with US forces, and installation of the THAAD system begins this month.
“The joint military exercises by the hostile forces are aimed at pre-emptive strikes against the DPRK,” North Korean Embassy official Pak Myong-ho said, referring to the official name of his country, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. “Therefore, the peace and stability of the Korean Peninsula is under serious threat,” he said. “Now the situation is already on the brink of nuclear war.”
Pak said the exercises could “turn into real combat at any time.”
While strident North Korean warnings about the annual military exercises are common, calling a press conference in a third country to drive the message home was a dramatic step. China is North Korea’s protector and only ally, and Beijing is the only capital where the North could so quickly summon Western reporters. Tillerson’s last stop on his six-day trip will be in China, which remains sceptical of any US military response.                      w

— Washington Post. 
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