France 24, April 29, 2017 - US State Secretary Rex Tillerson on Friday toughened his rhetoric regarding North Korea, calling on even stiffer sanctions against the isolated regime, but drew rebukes from his Chinese and Russian counterparts.
Tillerson told a gathering of the UN Security Council in New York that failing to act against North Korea’s weapons programmes would be “catastrophic”, urging new sanctions against entities and individuals supporting the country’s nuclear and missile testing.
He said sanctions that are already in place needed to be tightened, and looked forward to further action from China, North Korea’s main trading partner. “Failing to act now on the most pressing security issue in the world may bring catastrophic consequences,” he warned.
“With each successive detonation and missile test North Korea pushes northeast Asia and the world closer to instability and broader conflict,” Tillerson told the 15-member council. “The threat of a North Korean attack on Seoul or Tokyo is real.”
Tillerson also announced that the United States was ready to sanction other countries that support Pyongyang’s illegal activities, urging nations to downgrade diplomatic relations with the Communist-led nation.
His comments came a day after US President Donald Trump said a major conflict with North Korea is possible. "There is a chance that we could end up having a major, major conflict with North Korea,” he said, before adding he would “love to solve things diplomatically”.
However, China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi warned the UN gathering against military action in response to the North’s missile tests and nuclear programme. “The use of force does not solve differences and will only lead to bigger disasters,” Wang told the Security Council.
Moscow also cautioned Washington, with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov telling the council that the use of force against Pyongyang would be “completely unacceptable”.
“The combative rhetoric coupled with reckless muscle-flexing has led to a situation where the whole world seriously is now wondering whether there’s going to be a war or not,” he said “One ill thought out or misinterpreted step could lead to the most frightening and lamentable consequences.”
The Russian diplomat nevertheless called on North Korea to end its banned nuclear and missile development programmes.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said he was alarmed at the risk of military escalation in northeast Asia, "including by miscalculation or misunderstanding", as a result of Pyongyang’s accelerated nuclear and ballistic missile activities.
‘Number one ally’
Meanwhile, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe pledged on Friday to face down threats to international order from North Korea and heightening tensions over the South China Sea by working with British Prime Minister Theresa May.
In a visit to May’s official residence, Abe said that Britain was Japan’s number one ally in Europe, and that they would work together in the face of destabilisation from the North’s missile programme.
“The world is faced with serious threats to the international order... including those posed by the nuclear and missile development of North Korea, and the situation in the eastern South China Sea,” Abe said.
“It is extremely significant that the Prime Minister and I agreed that the UK and Japan should closely co-operate on a global scale in the face of this situation,” he added