STATE DEPARTMENT - U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry says the United States will defend itself and its allies amid what he calls "provocative, dangerous and reckless" threats by North Korean leader Kim Jung Un. Secretary Kerry met with South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se Tuesday, following North Korea's announcement that it will reopen a previously shutdown nuclear reactor.
With North Korean troops training for what Pyongyang calls a "state of war" with South Korea, Secretary Kerry says Washington and its allies will not be caught off guard.
"The United States will do what is necessary to defend ourselves and defend our allies Korea and Japan. We are fully prepared and capable of doing so. And I think the DPRK understands that," said Kerry.
South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se says Seoul and Washington are united against these threats. "Both Secretary Kerry and I agree that North Korea should abandon its nuclear ambitions and bellicose rhetoric," stated Yun Byung-se.
North Korea says it will restart a plutonium reactor and uranium enrichment plant that was disabled as part of a 2007 deal with China, Japan, Russia, South Korea and the United States. Leader Kim Jong Un says atomic power is central to his country's survival.
"Our nuclear strength is a reliable war deterrent," Kim Jong Un said. "And a guarantee to protect our sovereignty.'' He says that is a foundation for economic growth. "It is on the basis of a strong nuclear strength that peace and prosperity can exist, and so can the happiness of people's lives,'' he said.
Kerry says restarting the Yongbyon reactor "would be a very serious step." "That in itself would be a breach of international standard requirements. It would be a provocative act and completely contrary to the road that we have traveled all of these years," Kerry stated.
China is crucial to staying on that road to a negotiated settlement, and Beijing appears to share Washington's concern.
"We call on all sides to be calm and exercise restraint and return as soon as possible to the path of talks and consultations to appropriately resolve the issue," said Hong Lei.
An issue key to Kerry's upcoming trip to the region.
"The secretary will be discussing the DPRK’s provocations on all of his stops in Northeast Asia next - on his trip next week. This will be very much front and center," Nuland explained. "And particularly in Beijing."
North Korean aggression may be pushing China closer to U.S. calls for tougher action against Pyongyang, says American University professor Pek Koon Heng. "I think the Chinese may be more amenable to the U.S. line on North Korea," he noted. "And may be putting more pressure on the North Koreans."
North Korean leaders say nuclear weapons are "the nation's life," and are not to be traded even for "billions of dollars" in aid.