US warns N Korea missile launch would be 'huge mistake'

 

John Kerry: 'Kim Jong-un needs to understand... what the outcome of a conflict would be"

US Secretary of State John Kerry has said an anticipated missile launch by North Korea would be a "provocative act" and "huge mistake".

The North has moved two missiles to its east coast and South Korea is on alert.

Speaking in Seoul, Mr Kerry reconfirmed the US's commitment to protecting itself and its allies.

But he played down a US report that the North has a nuclear warhead, saying it was "inaccurate" to suggest it has "a working and tested" device.

Later, White House spokesman Jay Carney said Pyongyang had "not demonstrated the capability to deploy a nuclear-armed missile".

A declassified section of a report from the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) report had warned there was "moderate" confidence that Pyongyang had developed the technology to mount a nuclear warhead on a missile.

'Food not missiles'

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Diplomatic prowess will be required in Mr Kerry's conversation with the Chinese in Beijing”

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North Korea has increased its warlike rhetoric following fresh UN sanctions imposed after its third nuclear test in February and joint military manoeuvres by the US and South Korea.

The North has said it will restart a mothballed nuclear reactor, has shut an emergency military hotline to the South and has urged countries to withdraw diplomatic staff, saying it cannot now guarantee their safety.

On 15 April, North Korea will mark the birth of national founder Kim Il-sung , a date which could be used for a missile launch.

North Korean TV has been showing preparations for the birthday celebrations, which include displays of "Kimilsungia" flowers, parades, and models of missiles.

Analysis

Does North Korea have a nuclear weapon capable of being fired on a ballistic missile? Someone in America's vast intelligence community thinks the answer is "Yes" - well "probably Yes", as analysts do not like absolutes.

They also think it would not be very reliable.

This is a deeply sensitive area and with recent history in mind, no-one wants to be accused of "sexing-up" intelligence.

The honest answer is that no-one outside of a small group of people in Pyongyang actually knows what capability North Korea has. It is also true that, as with most conflicts, there are always hawks and doves and people with competing agendas. For now at least this probably remains one of former US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's infamous "known unknowns".

Recently, the North reportedly moved two Musudan ballistic missiles to its east coast. Estimates of their range vary, but some suggest the missiles could travel 4,000km (2,500 miles).

That would put US bases on Guam within range, although it is not believed that the Musudan has been tested before.

In a joint news conference with his South Korea counterpart, Mr Kerry said that if Northern leader Kim Jong-un decided to go ahead with a launch it would be "a provocative and unwanted act that will raise people's temperature".

"It is a huge mistake for him to choose to do that because it will further isolate his people ... who are desperate for food not missile launches, who are desperate for opportunity not for a leader who wants to flex his muscles in this manner," he said.

"Kim Jong-un needs to understand - and I think he probably does - what the outcome of a conflict would be," he added.

Mr Kerry said that in his talks with South Korean President Park Geun-hye she had made clear her "bright vision" of a peaceful Korean peninsula free of nuclear weapons.

North Korean television has been showing various celebrations despite its increasingly bellicose rhetoric

"We are prepared to work with conviction that relations between the North and South can improve and can improve very quickly," he said.

"The world will be much better off if the leaders of the North, and one leader in particular, can make the right decision."

Russia, which has expressed growing concern over North Korea, said on Friday that it had issued "an urgent appeal" to Pyongyang "to refrain from actions which could lead to further escalation of tension".

'Teeth'

Musudan missile

  • The Musudan, also known as the Nodong-B or the Taepodong-X, is an intermediate-range ballistic missile. Its likely targets are Okinawa, Japan, and US bases in the Pacific
  • Range estimates differ dramatically. Israeli intelligence suggests 2,500km, while the US Missile Defense Agency estimates 3,200km; other sources put the upper limit at 4,000km
  • These differences are due in large part to the fact that the missile has never been tested publicly, according to the Center for Nonproliferation Studies. Its payload is also unknown

On Saturday Mr Kerry will move on to China. He said he would urge leaders there to use their influence to rein in Pyongyang's aggression. He will then travel to Japan.

Mr Kerry said it was "clear to everybody in the world that no country in the world has as close a relationship or as significant an impact on [North Korea] than China", and that talks there would aim to "lay out a path that will defuse this tension".

China, like the US, wanted denuclearisation, he said, adding: "If that's your policy, you've got to put some teeth into it."

On Thursday, China carried out a civilian emergency drill in a town near its border with the North.

China's state media said the half-hour exercise covered evacuations and responses to an air raid and was aimed at raising public awareness of disaster prevention and relief.

North Korea missile ranges map
 

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  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 905.

    A potential time bomb if the situation is allowed to get out of hand. A stale-mate if North Korea is driven to a corner as the rogue state is likely to lash out! Even China, North Korea's traditional ally, has harsh words for the young Kim. Consequently the world is a more dangerous place. Nobody really wants the panic button to be pressed. Sadly nobody is able to read the young dictator's mind.

  • rate this
    +44

    Comment number 267.

    The good thing about all this is the fact that the US, China and Russia seem to be in agreement about the way N. Korea is acting. To appease N. Korea at this moment in time will mean further blackmail down the road. Perhaps there is the opportunity here to gain a long-term agreement that will include N. Korea giving up nuclear weapons.

  • rate this
    +15

    Comment number 261.

    I worry what would happen if the US do strike. What might a nuclear armed dictator do to his own people if his regime is about to collapse?

    It is a delicate situation that needs handling by with great care by all those in positions of power. The people of the DPRK have no choice but to support the party or face death or a life of hard labor and starvation. They deserve to be freed, not nuked.

  • rate this
    -47

    Comment number 243.

    Kim Jong-un is not insane. Why would he launch a nuclear weapon? There's no oil in N. Korea. Why should the US get involved? There's not going to be war in the Korean peninsular anytime soon. Why are people getting so worked up?

  • rate this
    +60

    Comment number 199.

    The Problem with Mr Kim “crying wolf” about his readiness to strike is that each time he does so, the “cry” has to be bigger and louder to be believable. I fear that sometime soon he will “cry” too loud and won't be able to stop events from sliding towards his destruction.

    Not that I mind that particularly, but there’ll be many people who’ll go down with him.

 

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