UNITED NATIONS – US Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, who spent Friday in New York to chair the United Nations Security Council meeting – the US has been president of the Security Council in April – intensified diplomatic activity to achieve consensus on the issue of the denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula.
Briefing the media at the Foreign Press Center on the Security Council proceedings, the Acting Assistant Secretary of State (Asia/Pacific), Susan Thornton, described the discussions between the 15 members of the Security Council as a “broad consensus” about the seriousness of the threat posed by the nuclear and missile programmes in North Korea, the frustration on the part of the Security Council over the repeated violations of its resolutions about this issue, and a resolve to address the issue, step up pressure and try to make a concerted and united effort to get the North Korean regime to change its mind about its weapon programmes and come to the table and be prepared to talk about denuclearisation.
In addition to the UNSC meeting, Tillerson met in a trilateral setting with foreign ministers of Japan and South Korea, Kishida and Yun respectively, in the morning before the council session to discuss further the trilateral cooperation with respect to the North Korean issue. Later, in the afternoon, Tillerson had a bilateral meeting with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi to discuss ways and means to keep up the pressure on North Korea and pursuing a strategy of cooperation going forward to bring about some kind of resolution to this issue.
Tillerson also had other bilateral meetings with a number of foreign ministers to work out a coordinated international effort to step up the pressure on North Korea which, as Thornton said, was “becoming very quickly the number one national security priority for the Trump administration”.
Thornton said that if North Korea did conduct another nuclear, the sixth after it had already conducted five in the past, it would be a “major provocation”. “Also the potential for an ICBM, intercontinental ballistic missile launch, would be another category of major provocation.
“And I think the Chinese have been reaching out, talking to the North Koreans, explaining to them that there would be very serious consequences both from the UN angle with regard to additional UN Security Council resolutions that would come in the wake of such an event, but also unilateral measures that China would take,” she said.
Thornton said that the US was working on how to solve this peacefully. “That’s why we’re talking about this pressure campaign that will change the calculus of the regime in North Korea and convince them to come to the table, make a serious effort at discussing with the rest of the international community the denuclearisation programme,” she said.
However, North Korea conducted another test after Tillerson’s warning against it.
Responding to a question from Bernama about President Trump asking South Korea to bear the costs of US$1 billion for deploying the THAAD (Terminal High Altitude Area Defense) system – this system provides the Ballistic Missile Defence System with a globally transportable, rapidly deployable capability to intercept and destroy ballistic missiles inside or outside the atmosphere during their final or terminal phase of flight – in South Korea, Thornton said that President Trump is “very serious” about “burden-sharing” with allies with whom the U.S. has military partnerships.
” … I think when he thinks about all kinds of deployments around the world – and you’ve heard him also on the subject of NATO members not paying up to the required percentage of their GDP that they’re required to pay into NATO for their – or for their defense budgets – I think this is another case where the President just wants to be sure that we’re doing the kind of burden-sharing in our alliances in Asia and in our alliance with South Korea that he thinks is fair and equitable,” she told Bernama, characterising the South Koreans as a “really bedrock ally” who were paying 2.7 per cent of their GDP into their defense budget and were “quite a bit above a number of our other partners”.
” … the President does realise that they have also contributed to burden-sharing on the THAAD deployment,” she said.
Thornton also said that President Trump felt that everybody has obligations to fully enforce the UN Security Council resolutions calling on North Korea to stop the nuclear tests.
But she also emphasised that Secretary Tillerson wanted to solve the problem with North Korea diplomatically. “We want to solve this peacefully, but we have not detected any seriousness on the part of the North Korean regime about coming to the table to discuss a negotiated solution and denuclearisation or abandonment of their weapons programmes. And so I think we’re looking for some signal of seriousness that would lead us to think it would be worth having these kinds of talks. Whereas on the Chinese side, I think they are more looking further down the road at the peaceful resolution and how we will get to talks, and so there’s a little bit of a difference in emphasis there.”