Resolve N. Korea nuclear issue peacefully: Moon

Visiting US General Joseph Dunford meeting President Moon Jae In in the Presidential Blue House yesterday. The American reassured the South Korean leader that Washington would closely coordinate any action with Seoul.
Visiting US General Joseph Dunford meeting President Moon Jae In in the Presidential Blue House yesterday. The American reassured the South Korean leader that Washington would closely coordinate any action with Seoul.PHOTO: REUTERS

S. Korean President urges calm amid stand-off ; US general says war is last resort

SEOUL • South Korean President Moon Jae In has called for calm in the stand-off with North Korea, saying resolving Pyongyang's nuclear ambitions must be done peacefully.

He was assured later yesterday by visiting top US general Joseph Dunford that US military options being prepared against the North would be for when diplomatic and economic sanctions failed, South Korea's presidential office said.

"There must be no more war on the Korean peninsula. Whatever ups and downs we face, the North Korean nuclear situation must be resolved peacefully," Mr Moon said at a regular meeting with senior aides and advisers.

"I am certain the United States will respond to the current situation calmly and responsibly in a stance that is equal to ours," he said.

Tensions have flared since US President Donald Trump, responding to the North's latest missile tests, warned it of "fire and fury like the world has never seen".

The North in turn threatened to test-fire its missiles towards the US Pacific island of Guam.

Guam's Governor, Mr Eddie Calvo, in a spirited defence of Mr Trump's rhetoric, said yesterday that "sometimes a bully can only be stopped with a punch in the nose".

The war of words between Mr Trump and North Korea prompted world leaders, including Chinese President Xi Jinping, to urge restraint on both sides.

Mr Moon urged North Korea to "stop all provocations and hostile rhetoric immediately". He also indirectly urged the US - the South's key ally and security guarantor - to resolve the crisis peacefully.

"We cannot have a war on the Korean peninsula ever again," he said.

The 1950-1953 Korean War cost more than a million lives, left cities in ruins and perpetuated the division of the peninsula.

Mr Moon had a meeting with General Dunford, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, as the latter began a visit to three countries involved in the North Korea crisis. The general is also scheduled to visit China and Japan.

According to the President's spokesman, Gen Dunford said at the meeting that the US would consider military action against North Korea only if all diplomatic and economic sanctions failed.

"He said everyone was hoping to solve the current situation without a war," spokesman Park Su Hyun said, adding that Gen Dunford stressed that Washington would closely coordinate with Seoul over any future action.

The meeting came on the eve of the anniversary of Japan's defeat in World War II, a day known as Liberation Day in both North and South Korea because it brought about the end of Japanese colonisation.

The sabre-rattling has sparked concern that a miscalculation by either side could trigger a catastrophic conflict, although many analysts voice doubts over such a prospect.

Any conflict could have devastating consequences for Asia's fourth- largest economy, with Seoul within range of Pyongyang's vast conventional artillery forces. Also within range are many of the 28,500 US troops stationed in the South.

In Washington, top administration officials appeared focused on trying to play down the prospect of nuclear war.

Appearing on the Sunday shows, Central Intelligence Agency director Mike Pompeo said "an attack from North Korea is not something that is imminent", while National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster said "we are not closer to war than a week ago".

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS, BLOOMBERG, WASHINGTON POST

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 15, 2017, with the headline 'Resolve N. Korea nuclear issue peacefully: Moon'. Print Edition | Subscribe