U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres said a political solution must be found to the North Korean nuclear issue, because the potential consequences of military action “are too horrific to even contemplate.”
“Tensions related to the Korean peninsula are at levels not seen in decades,” Guterres said during a brief news conference Wednesday at the United Nations.
“As tensions rise, so does the risk of misunderstanding, miscalculation or escalation,” he warned. “That is why it is so important to dial down rhetoric and to dial up diplomacy.”
Last week, tensions hit a new high between the United States and North Korea, when leader Kim Jong Un threatened to fire missiles into the waters around the Pacific U.S. island territory of Guam.
U.S. President Donald Trump warned in response that North Korea would see “fire and fury like the world has never seen” if they made good on their threat.
On August 5, the U.N. Security Council unanimously imposed new economic sanctions against Pyongyang for two prohibited missile launches it carried out in July. The latest round of sanctions are the toughest yet, and if fully implemented will deprive North Korea of a third of its annual export revenue, money that fuels its illicit weapons program.
The U.N. chief said the Security Council resolution represents an opportunity for diplomatic engagement and renewed dialogue to solve the crisis, and he offered his good offices in seeking a solution.
He urged North and South Korea to engage in credible and meaningful dialogue, including confidence-building measures to defuse tensions.