News / Asia

Kerry: North Korean Missile Launch Would be 'Huge Mistake'

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, left, answers reporters' question as South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se listens during a joint press conference at Foreign Ministry in Seoul, South Korea, April 12, 2013.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, left, answers reporters' question as South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se listens during a joint press conference at Foreign Ministry in Seoul, South Korea, April 12, 2013.
America's top diplomat, at the start of a four-day trip to Asia, is warning North Korea it will face further consequences should it test-fire a new missile.

After meetings with South Korea's president and foreign minister, Secretary of State John Kerry made it clear that both North Korea's bellicose rhetoric and its hopes of becoming a nuclear power are unacceptable.

Kerry, on his first visit to Seoul, warned North Korea's young leader, Kim Jong Un, not to proceed with an anticipated launch of a medium-range ballistic missile.

“It is a huge mistake for him to choose to do that because it will further isolate his country and further isolate his people who frankly are desperate for food, not missile launches,” Kerry warned.

Secretary of State John Kerry travels to the following cities in April.Secretary of State John Kerry travels to the following cities in April.
Secretary of State John Kerry travels to the following cities in April.
Secretary of State John Kerry travels to the following cities in April.
Kerry's next stop is Beijing. And while in Seoul he emphasized the Chinese government must “put some teeth” into ensuring North Korean denuclearization.

“China has an enormous ability to help make a difference here," he noted. "And I hope that in our conversations when I get there tomorrow we'll be able to lay out a path ahead that can defuse this tension, that can allow the people of the North and the South and other people in the world to recognize that people are moving this in the right direction which is towards negotiations and towards a reduction in the current level of tension.”

Watch Jeff Custer's related video:

John Kerry: Launching N. Korean Missile Would Be 'Huge Mistake'i
April 12, 2013 3:09 PM
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is in South Korea for high-level discussions on the growing tensions in the region. VOA's Jeff Custer reports he is holding talks with President Park Geun-hye, as well as with U.S. military officials on the ground in South Korea.


Standing alongside Kerry, the South Korean Foreign Minister, Yun Byung-se, characterized Pyongyang's threats as a “grave provocation” to the entire international community.

Both officials agreed the door remains open for dialog if North Korea makes good on the various international agreements it has broken concerning development of weapons of mass destruction.

South Korea's semi-official Yonhap news agency quotes President Park Geun-hye as telling ruling party officials Friday there should be such a South-North meeting to “listen to what North Korea thinks.”

North Korea, after conducting a missile launch and nuclear test in the past few months, has in short order unleashed a string of threats against Seoul and Washington. These have included renouncing the 1953 cease-fire which halted the Korean War, threatening to launch a pre-emptive nuclear attack on the United States and declaring a state of war in effect between the North and South.


Pyongyang this week also pulled its 53,000 workers from the only remaining joint venture with the South, the Kaesong factory complex.

As Kerry was meeting top leaders in Seoul, the latest invective from Pyongyang warned Tokyo it would be “consumed in nuclear flames” should the Japanese shoot down any North Korean missile.

Kerry will wrap up his Asian trip in Tokyo.

Another U.S. official in Seoul, speaking on condition he not be named, said if North Korea launches a missile there will likely be “little or no warning.” Asked by a reporter if he sensed war was imminent, he
replied “not at all”, explaining there are no signs of North Korean troop movements to back up Pyongyang's frequent characterization that the peninsula is on the brink of war.

NATO chief visit

The trip to Seoul by the top American diplomat also coincided with an unprecedented visit to South Korea by a NATO secretary general.

Anders Fogh Rasmussen told reporters he came to South Korea to demonstrate the international community's united stance and firm message to the North that a peaceful solution can come through dialog.

“We don’t know much about what is real intention of North Korean leadership, but we do know from the past and we do know from what has actually happened, that North Korea has the capacity to launch missiles. They have done nuclear tests and that’s enough to express grave concern.”

The visits by Kerry and Rasmussen came amid a disclosure in Washington of an excerpt from a classified U.S. intelligence report contending North Korea is now capable of arming a ballistic missile with a nuclear warhead. But officials at the Pentagon and the intelligence community quickly downplayed the analysis of the Defense Intelligence Agency. They say it would be inaccurate to suggest Pyongyang has fully tested or demonstrated the full range of capabilities needed to deploy a nuclear armed missile. 

[In Moscow, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Igor Morgulov called on the North to observe U.N. Security Council resolutions and resume talks on its nuclear program. Morgulov made his remarks in a meeting with North Korea's ambassador to Russia.

Also Friday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said he backed the idea of Switzerland hosting a fresh round of six-nation talks on North Korea's atomic program.]

  • North Korean children hold up red scarves to be tied around their necks during an induction ceremony into the Korean Children's Union held at a stadium in Pyongyang, April 12, 2013.
  • Two military officers admire displays at a flower show featuring thousands of Kimilsungia flowers, named after the late North Korean leader Kim Il Sung, Pyongyang, April 12, 2013.
  • South Korean soldiers stand guard at an observation post near the demilitarized zone (DMZ) which separates the two Koreas in Paju, north of Seoul April 11, 2013.
  • Female North Korean soldiers patrol along the banks of Yalu River, near the North Korean town of Sinuiju, opposite the Chinese border city of Dandong, April 11, 2013.
  • A North Korean man blocks his face with his hand from being photographed as he and other residents take a ferry in Yalu River, near the North Korean town of Sinuiju, opposite the Chinese border city of Dandong, April 11, 2013.
  • People take part in an oath-taking before the statues of late North Korean leaders Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il on Mansudae Hill in Pyongyang, April 10, 2013. (KCNA)
  • Anti-North Korean protesters release balloons with peace messages on the Grand Unification Bridge leading to the North near the demilitarized zone separating the two Koreas, in Paju, north of Seoul, April 10, 2013.
  • South Koreans arrive with their belongings from North Korea's Kaesong at the customs, immigration and quarantine office near the border village of Panmunjom, in Paju, north of Seoul, South Korea, April 9, 2013.
  • Visitors look at the industrial complex in Kaesong, North Korea, through binoculars at Dora Observation Post in the demilitarized zone (DMZ) near the border village of Panmunjom, in Paju, South Korea, April 9, 2013.
  • A South Korean military vehicle passes by gates leading to the North Korean city of Kaesong at the customs, immigration and quarantine office near the border village of Panmunjom, April 8, 2013.
  • An elementary school teacher orders her students to leave as they watch South Korean housewives denounce annual South Korean-U.S. military exercises, near the U.S. Embassy in Seoul, April 8, 2013.
  • South Korean army soldiers patrol along a barbed-wire fence near the border village of the Panmunjom, in Paju, South Korea, April 8, 2013.
  • North Korean military dogs run to a target with a portrait of South Korean Defence Minister Kim Kwan-jin during a military drill, April 6, 2013. (KCNA)

Steve Herman

A veteran journalist, Steve Herman is VOA's Southeast Asia Bureau Chief and Correspondent, based in Bangkok.

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Comment Sorting
by: Anonymous
April 13, 2013 5:00 AM
North Korea's bellicose rhetoric has gone too far, causing much psychological and emotional harm to hundreds of millions of people in its neighboring countries, including South East Asia. It has also caused disruptions to the flight schedules of thousands of people to South Korea and Japan during this week. With all the unreasonable belligerent speeches that have caused incalculable psychological, emotional, and financial harm to millions of poeple, the young "leader" has actually committed a crime against humanity. When will the International Court of Justice start suing him for such an unspeakable crime?

by: kanaikaalirumporai
April 12, 2013 6:29 PM
This man Kerry is fraud!, his talks are going to get him and his country into a war that the US had never seen before. He seems to be in the same mood of dealing with the Arabs and Muslims. The Chinese can not idle while he and his allies wage war on a fellow Asian country. It's high time the people of Asia unite and throw out the Americans and their European allies, who will never come out of the economic ruins. All their higher living standards are nothing but 500 years of wealth plundered from Asia, Africa and the occupied land they named as North and South America.

by: NVO from: USA
April 12, 2013 12:28 PM
Given the documented history of the United States’ role in arming North Korea with the very weapons the reclusive state is now threatening to use against Americans, the constant drumbeat of fearmongering by the US media about North Korea’s intentions is missing a huge part of the story.Amidst reports that North Korea now has nuclear-equipped ballistic missiles as experts warn a conflict on the Korean peninsular is more likely than not, it’s important to remember who armed North Korea with nuclear weapons in the first place – namely the U.S. government and the CIA.

Image: YouTube

A portion of a Defense Intelligence Agency report revealed yesterday by Rep. Doug Lamborn of Colorado states the DIA is moderately confident that, “the North currently has nuclear weapons capable of delivery by ballistic missiles.”

Although subsequently denied by White House and Pentagon officials, the revelation arrives amidst continued threats and posturing by the Hermit kingdom to launch attacks against the United States and South Korea.

However, while bellicose threats are being carelessly traded by both sides and eagerly regurgitated by the mainstream media, the question of how exactly North Korea acquired its nuclear capability in the first place has been completely ignored.

by: NVO from: USA
April 12, 2013 12:25 PM
Both the Clinton and Bush administrations played a key role in helping the late Kim Jong-Il develop North Korea’s nuclear prowess from the mid 1990′s onwards.

Former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld presided over a $200 million dollar contract to deliver equipment and services to build two light water reactor stations in North Korea in January 2000 when he was an executive director of ABB (Asea Brown Boveri). Wolfram Eberhardt, a spokesman for ABB confirmed that Rumsfeld was at nearly all the board meetings during his involvement with the company.

Rumsfeld was merely picking up the baton from the Clinton administration, who in 1994 agreed to replace North Korea’s domestically built nuclear reactors with light water nuclear reactors. Clinton policy wonks claimed that light water reactors couldn’t be used to make bombs. Not so according to Henry Sokolski, head of the Non-proliferation Policy Education Center in Washington, who stated, “LWRs could be used to produce dozens of bombs’ worth of weapons-grade plutonium in both North Korea and Iran. This is true of all LWRs — a depressing fact U.S. policymakers have managed to block out.”

by: danR from: Vancouver
April 12, 2013 12:03 PM
You tell 'em Kerry. And if Japan shoots down the missiles, and Kim retaliates by releasing to the surface and detonating the crude, heavy nukes his father left offshore Sapporo after 2006, well, you just tell 'em again.

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