UN chief offers help to broker North Korea talks

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said on Wednesday it was time to 'dial down rhetoric and dial up diplomacy' on North Korea.

UNITED NATIONS (AFP) - UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Wednesday (Aug 16) offered his personal help to help reach a diplomatic solution to the North Korean nuclear stand-off, saying it was time to “dial down rhetoric and dial up diplomacy.”

“As tensions rise, so does the risk of misunderstanding, miscalculation or escalation and it is why it is so important to dial down rhetoric and to dial up diplomacy,” Guterres told reporters at UN headquarters in New York.

“My good offices are always available and I conveyed this message yesterday to the representatives of the six-party talks.”

The UN chief said he “will remain in close contact with all concerned parties and stand ready to assist in any way.”

Through the 2000s, the six-party talks bringing together North and South Korea, China, Russia, Japan and the United States appeared to draw Pyongyang toward some level of outside nuclear monitoring and a possible slowdown in their programme.

But the process collapsed in 2009.

Tensions were “at levels not seen in decades,” said the UN chief, referencing the “enormous suffering” of the 1950-53 Korean War, which he said killed more than three million and had a civilian death rate higher than during World War II.

“We need to heed the lessons of history, not to repeat the mistakes,” Guterres said.

On Aug 5, the UN Security Council unanimously backed a US-drafted resolution that significantly strengthened sanctions on North Korea, imposing a ban on exports aimed at depriving Pyongyang of US$1 billion (S$1.3 billion) in annual revenue.

The resolution was “an opportunity for a diplomatic engagement and renewed dialogue to solve this crisis” with “many possible avenues for this dialogue” from bilateral to the six-party talks, Guterres said.

“The international community must send a clear, coherent message to the leadership of DPRK: fully comply with international obligations and work towards reopening communication channels and support efforts to deescalate the situation,” he said.

“The solution to this crisis must be political. The potential consequences of military action are too horrific to even contemplate.”