Nato chief calls North Korea 'global threat' during Japan visit

Nato Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg gives a joint press on Russia at the Nato headquarters in Brussels.
Nato Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg gives a joint press on Russia at the Nato headquarters in Brussels. PHOTO: AFP

TOKYO (AFP, REUTERS) - Nato chief Jens Stoltenberg called North Korea a "global threat" on Monday (Oct 30) and said he backed tighter sanctions against it during a visit to Japan, which has been targeted by Pyongyang's provocations.

Stoltenberg is in Tokyo to meet Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and other senior officials including defence minister Itsunori Onodera later in the day.

"We are as concerned as you are about the provocative, reckless behaviour from North Korea," he said in a speech to a group of security experts and defence officials.

"It is really dangerous, it poses a direct threat to countries in this region (including) Japan, but it is also a global threat," he added.

His comments came as senior defence officials from the US, South Korea and Japan held trilateral talks in Seoul and urged North Korea to walk away from its "destructive and reckless path" of weapons development.

Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff General Joseph Dunford hosted his South Korean and Japanese counterparts at the US Pacific Command headquarters in Hawaii on Sunday to exchange views on North Korea's recent long-range ballistic missile and nuclear tests.

"Together they called upon North Korea to refrain from irresponsible provocations that aggravate regional tensions, and to walk away from its destructive and reckless path of development," the US military said in a statement.

Pyongyang has sparked global alarm in recent months by conducting its sixth nuclear test and test-launching missiles capable of reaching the US mainland, while US president Donald Trump and the North's young ruler Kim Jong Un have traded threats of war and personal insults.

It fired two projectiles over northern Japan in less than a month, ringing alarm bells in Tokyo as Abe called for a get-tough approach towards Pyongyang.

"Nato strongly support political, diplomatic, economic pressure on North Korea and we welcome the strengthening of the sanctions" adopted by the UN Security Council in September, Stoltenberg said.

"But even more important, we need to be sure that the sanctions are fully and transparently implemented," he added.

Stoltenberg's visit comes after Abe met with him in Brussels in July to agree on boosting security cooperation.

"We know and you know that (North Korea's missile) ranges reach the west coast of the United State and the ranges reach most of Europe," he said on Monday.

But the Nato chief warned this month that military action against Pyongyang would have "devastating consequences", after Trump said diplomatic efforts had failed.

Stoltenberg has stressed that Washington had the right to defend itself and its allies but called for greater diplomatic efforts.

"We don't have to use military force - peaceful resolution is the aim," he said on Monday.

Maritime security, including territorial rows involving China in the East and South China Seas, was also likely to be a topic of discussion during Stoltenberg's visit, according to a Japanese foreign ministry official.