Diplomats from the U.S., South Korea and Japan assembled in Seoul Wednesday to debate plans to counter North Korea’s ongoing nuclear weapons program.
The talks follow allied United States and South Korean military exercises that began Monday just of the east coast of the Korean Peninsula.
North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un described the naval drills as a “rehearsal for invasion”, while its Deputy Ambassador to the United Nations claimed that the situation had reached a “touch-and-go point” and that a nuclear war “may break out any moment”.
Top U.S. diplomats in Seoul told reporters they are still seeking a diplomatic solution to the crisis, while U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson claimed President Trump does not want to go to war with Pyongyang. He also said he had been asked to continue diplomatic efforts “until the first bomb drops”.
Hostile confrontations between the Trump administration and Kim Jong-un reached boiling point after the hermit kingdom carried out its sixth nuclear weapons test and fired intercontinental ballistic missiles over Japan.
This week, U.S. forces met with South Korean military vessels to patrol the east coast in an effort to intimidate Pyongyang and restrain its threats to launch a nuclear strike on the United States. The U.S.S. Ronald Reagan sailed alongside the South Korean navy in a clear show of military strength.
Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan said that Washington still sees diplomacy as the best means of solving the hostile standoff, but told a news conference in Seoul that the allied forces should be prepared for “any eventuality”.
“Our objective is, throughout the campaign of pressure, to bring North Korea to the negotiating table without preconditions, so that we can achieve our objective of a de-nuclearized Korean Peninsula.
Diplomacy is our primary objective and primary means to addressing the threat posed by North Korea, but we need to be prepared to respond to any eventuality, given the unpredictable nature of the regime in Pyongyang.”
Two days prior to the meeting in South Korea, North Korea’s Deputy UN Ambassador Kim In-ryong told a U.N. General Assembly committee that “nuclear war may break out any moment”. He also claimed that North Korea is the only country in the world that has faced “such an extreme and direct nuclear threat from the United States since the 1970s”, and said that Pyongyang has the right to develop nuclear weapons as a means of self-defense.
“As long as one does not take part in the U.S. military actions against the DPRK (North Korea), we have no intention to use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against any other country.
The entire U.S. mainland is within our firing range and if the U.S. dares to invade our sacred territory even an inch it will not escape our severe punishment in any part of the globe.
Unless the hostile policy and the nuclear threat of the U.S. is thoroughly eradicated, we will never put our nuclear weapons and ballistic rockets on the negotiation table under any circumstance.”
Also making an appearance in Seoul at the World Knowledge Forum, former Secretary of State and failed U.S. presidential candidate Hillary Clinton said Wednesday that “cavalier” threats to start war on the Korean peninsula were “dangerous and short-sighted”.
She also added that: “The insults on Twitter have benefited North Korea, I don’t think they’ve benefited the United States”, in an obvious reference to President Trump’s recent tweets about the North Korean dictator.
According to the New York Post, a second North Korean official later said that Kim Jong-un’s regime had no interest in diplomacy until it had developed a rocket capable of “striking the east coast of the United States”.