Secretary of State John Kerry met with South Korean leaders in Seoul Monday amid rising concerns about bordering North Korea’s growing nuclear weapons program. Kerry pledged an “iron clad” U.S. commitment to South Korean security, which has been the subject of the North’s military and cyber threats.
Negotiations of a nuclear draw-down between U.S. allies and North Korea have been on hold for three years now. At the beginning of the year, the U.S. proposed a new round of talks with Pyongyang, but a place and time to discuss a deal could not be agreed to. Shortly after reaching out to the North, the U.S. and South Korea began joint military exercises which the North views as an imminent threat.
Last weekend, North Korea claimed to have tested a newly developed ballistic missile which it fired from a submarine. Shortly thereafter, South Korea intelligence learned that Kim Jong Un ordered the execution of his defense chief for disrespectful behavior.
At a joint news conference with South Korean foreign minister Yun Byung-se, Kerry said that the North has continued to show “grotesque, grisly, horrendous, public displays of executions on a whim and fancy.”
Kerry also talked about increasing sanctions on North Korea for their continued development of nukes and ballistic missiles which they hope one day will reach the western shores of America. Currently, Pyongyang is believed to be in possession of 10 nuclear weapons, but intelligence estimates expect them to have 20–100 by 2020.
On Saturday, Kerry was in Beijing and referred to the Iranian nuclear agreement as evidence that a nuclear weapons deal can be made with a belligerent country. He said that it may have a “positive influence” on future North Korean talks, but there is no way to know whether the isolated leadership there can “internalize” the message.
Later on Monday, the secretary spoke at Korean University, also in Seoul, and admonished the North for restricting use of the internet for their citizens. He compared the North’s backward black-out policy with South Korea’s open system which allows the free exchange of ideas.
In the University speech, Kerry went on to call for open internet access as a universal right for all people.
[AP] [Photo courtesy Reuters/Saul Loeb]