SEOUL/BEIJING • South Korea will never tolerate North Korea as a nuclear state, nor will Seoul have nuclear weapons, President Moon Jae In said yesterday, as China pledged to work on denuclearisation after setting aside a dispute with Seoul over an anti-missile system.
The North Korea nuclear crisis will take centre stage when United States President Donald Trump begins a trip to Asia at the end of the week and diplomacy has been ramping up ahead of that visit.
Speaking to Parliament, Mr Moon said there can be no military action on the Korean peninsula without the South's consent, adding that the government will continue working for peace on the peninsula. "According to the joint denuclearisation declaration made by North and South Korea, we cannot tolerate or recognise North Korea as a nuclear state. We too will not develop nuclear (weapons) or own them."
Mr Moon's remarks and China's statement came a day after China and South Korea agreed to normalise relations to end a year-long standoff over the deployment of the US Terminal High Altitude Area Defence (Thaad) system. China had feared the system's powerful radar could see deep into the country.
China's foreign ministry, meanwhile, said Beijing and Seoul will continue to use diplomatic means to address the Korean peninsula issue, after a meeting in Beijing between Mr Lee Do Hoon, the South's representative for the stalled six-party nuclear talks, and his Chinese counterpart, Mr Kong Xuanyou.
North Korea's state media had yet to comment on the shift in ties between South Korea and China as of midday yesterday.
The North's state-run KCNA news agency on Tuesday slammed Mr Trump, saying he was "incurably mentally deranged" and lashed out at his "bellicose and irresponsible rhetoric".
North Korea has not engaged in missile tests since mid-September or any nuclear tests since its biggest one early that month. Japan's TV Asahi reported on Tuesday that about 200 people may have died when a tunnel at a North Korean nuclear site collapsed around Sept 10, a week after Pyongyang conducted its sixth and largest blast.
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE