News Column

Obama Discounts N. Korean Nuke Claims, Urges Talks

Apr 16 2013 5:19PM
President Obama (file photo)

President Barack Obama said in an interview aired Tuesday that he believes North Korea is not yet able to mount a nuclear warhead on a missile, and urged the isolated state to engage in talks with the US and other world powers.

"Based on our current intelligence assessments, we do not think that they have that capacity," Obama told NBC News of Pyongyang's ability to fit a warhead on a missile.

"But we have to make sure that we are dealing with every contingency out there," he said, noting the US had repositioned some of its missile defences.

On his trip to region at the weekend, US Secretary of State John Kerry reiterated calls for Pyongyang to rejoin stalled six-nation talks aimed at ending its nuclear programme.

But in the latest outburst of angry rhetoric from North Korea, a foreign ministry spokesman reacted to Kerry's call for dialogue as "a crafty ploy."

"US high ranking officials are vying with each other to talk about dialogue. This is nothing but a crafty ploy to evade the blame for the tension on the eve of a war by pretending to refrain from military actions and stand for dialogue," the spokesman said.

"Genuine dialogue is possible only at the phase where (North Korea) has acquired nuclear deterrent enough to defuse the US threat of nuclear war," he continued.

When asked about 30-year-old North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's recent bellicose behavior, Obama told the interviewer: "I'm not a psychiatrist."

"What I do know is, is that the actions they've taken, the rhetoric they've engaged in, has been provocative," he said. "And it's unnecessary because, what it's done is, ironically, isolated North Korea further."

The North Korean military once again ratcheted up the war rhetoric on Tuesday by threatening to attack South Korea if "anti-North Korean" activities did not stop, media reports said.

Pyongyang was angry over a demonstration in Seoul on Monday where a portrait of the North's former leader Kim Jong Il was burned, South Korea's Yonhap News Agency reported.

"The supreme command of the Korean People's Army Tuesday issued an ultimatum to the South Korean puppet group," the North's state-run Korean Central News Agency wrote.

The military called the burning an "atrocious, unforgivable act."

Pyongyang demanded an apology for anti-North Korean acts and said it would retaliate without warning if they did not stop.

South Korea's Defence Ministry said it was monitoring the situation, calling the threats "regrettable"

"We are closely watching the North Korean military's move and stand firm against any provocations," ministry spokesman Kim Min Seok said.

A United States Forces Korea (USFK) official said no large-scale troop movements or exercises have recently been monitored in North Korea to indicate it was preparing to test-fire a medium-range missile, Yonhap reported.

But he said Seoul and Washington were still closely watching for signs of a test fire or any other tactical provocation: "Any of those things can happen with little to no notice and we may not know that it happens until the missiles are launched."

Also on Tuesday, a US military helicopter participating in the drills on Tuesday crashed while landing near the border with North Korea, but all 21 US soldiers on board were unhurt.

The CH-53E Super Stallion helicopter crashed near a shooting range in Cherwon, 88 kilometres north of Seoul, after routine manoeuvres in support of the joint training exercises, according to the USFK.






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Source: Copyright 2013 dpa Deutsche Presse-Agentur GmbH


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