South Korea's Moon Jae In says there must be no war on Korean peninsula, urges Pyongyang to halt provocations

South Korean President Moon Jae In shakes hands with US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford during their meeting at the Presidential Blue House in Seoul, South Korea, August 14, 2017.
South Korean President Moon Jae In shakes hands with US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford during their meeting at the Presidential Blue House in Seoul, South Korea, August 14, 2017. YONHAP VIA REUTERS
South Korea's new President Moon Jae In at a press conference at the presidential Blue House in Seoul on May 10, 2017.
South Korea's new President Moon Jae In at a press conference at the presidential Blue House in Seoul on May 10, 2017.PHOTO: REUTERS

SEOUL (REUTERS, AFP) - South Korea's President Moon Jae In on Monday (Aug 14) said there must be no war on the Korean peninsula and called on North Korea to halt its threatening behaviour.

Tensions between Pyongyang and Washington have been escalating in recent days, with both hinting at military action.

"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," the president said in opening remarks at a regular meeting with senior aides and advisers. The remarks were provided by the presidential Blue House.

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

Moon on Monday also met General Joseph Dunford, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, who is visiting Seoul as part of a trip which will also include China and Japan.  

According to Moon’s spokesman, Dunford said in the meeting that the US would only consider military action against North Korea 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 Dunford stressed Washington would closely coordinate with Seoul over any future action.

The meeting came just days after President Donald Trump said military options against North Korea were “locked and loaded".

Dunford’s Asia visit comes as fears grow that a war of words between Mr Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un will lead to a miscalculation that sparks an actual military conflict.

In a call with Trump on Saturday, Chinese President Xi Jinping called for all sides to maintain restraint and avoid inflammatory comments. 

The latest US and North Korean 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 between the North and the US 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.  

The latest bout of tension was sparked by the North’s two intercontinental ballistic missile tests last month, which appeared to bring much of the US within range.  The tests are seen as a milestone in the North’s quest to develop a nuclear-tipped missile capable of hitting the US mainland.  

Since then the North and Trump have locked horns in fiery exchanges, with Trump saying on Friday that US troops were “locked and loaded” in case a military solution became necessary.