North Korea has been deliberately provoking both South Korea and the West for some time now, but the provocations have reached new heights in the years since young ruler Kim Jong Un took the helm of the despotic nuclear power after his father died in 2011.
In its latest pathetic efforts to garner attention, Pyongyang has announced it will restart the closed-down Yongbyon nuclear reactor, which can produce plutonium that can be used in nuclear weapons. The North Korean government has also recently threatened to launch a long-range rocket, basically a test of ballistic missile its technology.
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According to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, North Korea will face “severe consequences” if the rogue state continues with its announced decision to restart the Yongbyon nuclear reactor.
When asked if the U.S. could credibly ask North Korea to stop its development of nukes after making a deal to allow Iran’s nuclear program to continue, Kerry replied unequivocally yes.
Even further diplomatic and economic isolation for North Korea
Kerry did not mince words in warning North Korea to back off: “There will be severe consequences as we go forward if North Korea does not refrain from its irresponsible provocations that aggravate regional concerns, make the region less safe, and if it refuses to live up to its international obligations.”
He went on to note: “Our position is clear: we will not accept a DPRK – North Korea – as a nuclear weapons state, just as we said that about Iran.”
Kerry also noted that Kim Jong-un’s government was already experiencing a chilling diplomatic isolation.
The U.S. Secretary of State also pointed to China as a partner in containing North Korea. “China for instance has taken serious steps in the last year, year and a half, since we engaged China on this subject specifically to encourage them to do more, and they have.”
He pointed out he had also spoken to Russian FM Sergei Lavrov regarding how to deal with North Korean defiance.
In conclusion, Kerry said: “So there’s a lot happening. And I can assure you that all of these countries remain fixated on the need for North Korea to denuclearize with respect to its weapons program and to live up to its international obligations.”
Statement from U.S. defense officials on consequences of North Korean missile launch
Assistant Secretary of Defense David Shear commented at a U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee hearing this week that additional sanctions were a possible response to any North Korea missile launch, and the commander of U.S. forces in the Pacific Harry Harris noted he would approve of the deployment of a U.S. anti-missile system in South Korea.
Shear went on to say the U.S. approach to North Korea was an effort to combine diplomacy and pressure.
“And as we go forward toward a possible North Korean missile launch for example, we’re going to be engaging our six-party partners and we’re going to be considering what extra pressure we might put on North Korea should they decide to conduct that missile launch,” Shear explained, continuing to say “Further sanctions would be one possibility.”
Harris said that North Korea was the greatest threat the U.S. faced as Pacific, and in his opinion it was critical to improve South Korea’s ballistic missile defense.