North Korea says naval blockade would be 'act of war'

Elias Hubbard
December 16, 2017

Less than a day after U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson suggested direct talks with North Korea "without preconditions", the White House threw cold water on his diplomatic overtures, reiterating its hard-line stance.

South Korea's vice foreign minister says North Korea is "in the final stages of nuclear weaponization" and is urging the global community to grasp the urgency of the threat this poses and find ways to halt its nuclear program. "But North Korea must first refrain from any further provocations and take honest and meaningful actions toward denuclearization", a National Security Council spokesperson told CNN.

He stressed that "in our race against North Korea, we need to do more - way, way more" to counter North Korea's "evasive tactics" to avoid United Nations sanctions which he said are becoming more sophisticated.

North Korea's United Nations ambassador on Thursday met with a senior United Nations official who made a recent trip to Pyongyang to push for talks on ending the crisis over the reclusive country's nuclear and missile tests.

At the same time, Hyun said the goal must be denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula and "we should not be provoked into conflict nor should we shut the doors of dialogue and peace".

"I think we're really running out of time", he said, a view that is also shared by National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster. The White House's official position completely contradicts Tillerson's remarks.

The U.S. also remains firmly against other possible gestures suggested as preconditions for dialogue, such as the relaxation of sanctions or the resumption of humanitarian assistance.

But it renewed tests in November when it fired a new type of intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM), the Hwasong-15, which flew higher and further than previous tests.

"We're ready to have the first meeting without precondition..."

"It's not realistic to say we're only going to talk if you come to the table ready to give up your program", he said. "They have too much invested in it".

The official explained that the Trump administration has consistently held that all talks with North Korea must wait until Pyongyang has fundamentally improved its attitude and that it will not repeat bad policies from the past.

The issue of abductions to North Korea is a highly-charged one in Japan, which suspects dozens of people were kidnapped by agents from the isolated country.

"It is important that the diplomatic effort be backed up with a very credible military alternative", he said, adding that Trump "intends to make sure that they do not have a deliverable nuclear weapon to the shores of the United States".

The Trump administration's lack of a consistent message toward North Korea has been criticized for plunging its allies into confusion as well as making North Korea doubt the US's willingness to negotiate.

"It's going to be tough to talk if in the middle of our talks you made a decision to test another device", Tillerson said.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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