US Secretary of State John Kerry on Friday warned
North Korea that it would be a "huge mistake" to test-fire a
mid-range missile and said the isolated communist state "will not be
accepted as a nuclear power."
"If (North Korean leader) Kim Jong Un decides to launch a missile, whether it's across the Sea of Japan or any other direction, he will be choosing wilfully to ignore the entire international community," Kerry told reporters in the South Korean capital Seoul.
"It will be a huge mistake for him to do that because it will further isolate his country," he added.
Kerry added that the world will not allow North Korea to become a nuclear power, and stressed that the US will defend its Asian allies against any attack by the reclusive regime.
"We are all united in the fact that North Korea will not be accepted as a nuclear power," he told a press briefing after meeting with South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung Se.
"The US will, if needed, defend our allies and defend ourselves," he added.
South Korea and Japan have been on high alert amid indications that Pyongyang was preparing for a rocket test at any time after it moved two Musudan ballistic missiles to its east coast.
It is estimated they have a range of 3,000-4,000 kilometres, which would allow them to reach Japan and the US military base on the Pacific island of Guam.
Pyongyang warned Friday that Tokyo would be the first target in the event of a war after Japan deployed its anti-missile defense system to destroy any missile heading its way, according to the Yonhap news agency.
Kerry said Washington was prepared to resume stalled six nation talks aimed at halting North Korea's nuclear programme, which would pave the way to normalized relations with the US, but only if North Korea took concrete steps toward denuclearization.
"They have to be really serious," he said. "No one is going to talk for the sake of talking and no one's going to continue to play this round-robin game gets repeated every few years which is both unnecessary and dangerous."
South Korean President Park Geun Hyes said Seoul was also open to holding talks with Pyongyang to calm the tensions which have been escalating since North Korea's third nuclear test in February.
"If North Korea comes forward on the right path, we will also activate the Korean Peninsula trust process and build up peace on the Korean Peninsula and in Northeast Asia," she told visiting NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Friday endorsed the continuation of six-party talks in Switzerland.
"As I see it Geneva is ready to host the six-party talks. It hopes that they will resume. We'd not object to it," the Russian minister said.
Kerry, who will also visit Beijing and Tokyo before returning to the US on April 15, said he will ask China to help resolve the conflict in the Korean Peninsula.
"No country in the world has as close a relationship or as significant an impact on North Korea than China," he said. "China has an enormous ability to help make a difference here and I hope that in our conversations ... we'll be able to lay out a path ahead that can diffuse this tension."
Seoul and Washington earlier played down fears of North Korea launching a nuclear-armed missile, following a US intelligence report that concluded with "moderate confidence" that Pyongyang has learned to make nuclear weapons small enough to be mounted on ballistic missiles.
"North Korea has conducted three nuclear tests, but it is still doubtful that North Korea has made a small, light warhead that can be mounted on a missile," South Korean Defence Ministry spokesman Kim Min Seok said in a press briefing.
The Pentagon also denied the assessment made by the Defence Intelligence Agency, which was revealed by US Congressman Dough Lamborn on Thursday.
"It would be inaccurate to suggest that the North Korean regime has fully tested, developed, or demonstrated the kinds of nuclear capabilities referenced in the passage," spokesman George Little said Thursday.
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