South Korea vows no war despite North's missile threat

South Korea pledged Thursday that there would be no war on the Korean peninsula, as prospects of a pre-emptive US strike to destroy Pyongyang's nuclear missile program receded.

South Korea's President Moon Jae-In moved to reassure his citizens that Seoul has an effective veto on US military action, after weeks of sabre-rattling from both US President Donald Trump and the North's Kim Jong-Un.

And in Washington, senior officials, while insisting the US military stands ready to respond to any aggression from Pyongyang, stressed that they are working in close coordination with both South Korea and Japan.

"I will prevent war at all cost," Moon told a press conference to mark his first 100 days in office. "I want all South Koreans to believe with confidence that there will be no war."

His assurance came shortly after Steve Bannon, Trump's chief strategist, gave a candid interview to American Prospect magazine in which he admitted that the threat Pyongyang's artillery poses to civilians effectively precludes pre-emptive action.

"Until somebody solves the part of the equation that shows me that ten million people in Seoul don't die in the first 30 minutes from conventional weapons, I don't know what you're talking about, there's no military solution here, they got us," he said.

Bannon may not have been speaking on behalf of the US government in the interview, and Secretaries of Defence and State Jim Mattis and Rex Tillerson took a tougher line after talks with their Japanese counterparts.

But they stressed that they were working in close coordination with Seoul and Tokyo and seeking the help of China to pressure Kim's regime to come to the table to negotiate the denuclearization of the peninsula.

And they warned that the United States has the means to respond to any aggression initiated by North Korea.

- 'Strong military consequences' -

"Very simply, in the event of a missile launch towards the territory of Japan, Guam, the United States, Korea, we would take immediate specific actions to take it down," Mattis told reporters.

"I can just assure you that, in close collaboration with our allies, there are strong military consequences if DPRK initiates hostilities," he warned.

Tillerson stressed that the goal was to convince Kim that he faces a "bleak future" of total diplomatic isolation if he continues down the nuclear path.

Japan's Foreign Minister Taro Kono, who was in Washington with Defence Minister Itsunori Onodera to meet Mattis and Tillerson, agreed.

"On North Korea, towards its denuclearization, we agreed we would ramp up effective pressure. We will call on China to take specific measures to make North Korea change its behaviour," he said.

Tensions have soared on the peninsula in recent months after Pyongyang carries out its first successful tests of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), bringing many US cities within its range.

Last week it threatened to fire a salvo of rockets towards the US territory of Guam -- although it appears to have backed off for now -- inspiring Trump to warn that Washington's weapons were "locked and loaded".

The intense rhetoric on both sides raised fears that a miscalculation could lead to catastrophic consequences -- Pyongyang has vast artillery forces deployed within range of Seoul, where millions of people live.

The United States has been the South's security guarantor since the end of the Korean War in 1953, which left the peninsula divided and technically still in a state of conflict with no peace treaty signed.

Washington has 28,500 troops stationed in the country to protect it from the North.

But Moon said Trump had agreed that "no matter what option they take about North Korea, all decisions will be made after consulting with and getting agreement with the Republic of Korea".

- 'Red line' -

Pyongyang says it needs nuclear weapons to defend itself from a possible invasion by the "imperialist enemy" -- the United States.

It has long sought to develop a nuclear-tipped missile capable of hitting the US mainland.

The North has been subjected to seven sets of sanctions by the United Nations Security Council over its nuclear programme, the latest earlier this month, with China, its main ally and benefactor, promising to comply.

Beijing has grown increasingly exasperated with its wayward neighbour, but fears instability and the prospect of US troops on its border in a united Korea.

Moon, a left-leaning former human rights lawyer, in the past has urged engagement with Pyongyang to bring it to the negotiating table, in addition to sanctions.

But since coming to power, his gestures have been rebuffed by Pyongyang, and he played down the urgency of dialogue, echoing Tillerson's line that Pyongyang must prove it is ready to make concessions.

"The red line would be North Korea completing its ICBM and mounting it with a nuclear warhead and weaponising it," he said.

"If North Korea launches another provocation, it will face even stronger sanctions and it will not be able to survive them. I would like to warn North Korea to end its dangerous gamble."

Kim said Tuesday that the North would "watch a little more" before making a decision on the Guam missile launch, a declaration Trump lauded as "very wise".

But the US and South Korea are set to begin their annual 10-day Ulchi Freedom Guardian joint exercises on Monday, involving tens of thousands of troops. North Korea has long slammed it as a rehearsal for invasion.

US says open to talk if North Korea ready to disarm
Washington (AFP) Aug 15, 2017
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Tuesday, after North Korea's Kim Jong-Un postponed a threat to fire missiles towards the US territory of Guam, that Washington remains ready for talks. But the top US diplomat said it would be up to Kim when such negotiations would begin, having previously insisted Pyongyang must demonstrate that it accepts it will have to give up its nuclear program. ... read more

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South Korea vows no war despite North's missile threat South Korea vows no war despite North's missile threat Reviewed by Unknown on 04:33:00 Rating: 5

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