SEOUL, Nov 29 (Reuters) – South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol warned of an unprecedented concerted response with allies if North Korea goes ahead with a nuclear test, and urged China to restrain the north from continuing the banned development of nuclear weapons and missiles. .
In an extensive interview with Reuters on Monday, Yoon called on China, North Korea’s closest ally, to fulfill its responsibilities as a permanent member of the UN Security Council. He said failure to do so would lead to an influx of military resources into the region.
“What is certain is that China has the ability to influence North Korea and China has a responsibility to participate in the process,” Yoon said in his office. It was up to Beijing to decide whether to exert that influence for peace and stability, he added.
North Korea’s actions led to higher defense spending in countries in the region, including Japan, and increased deployment of U.S. warplanes and ships, Yoon noted.
It is in China’s interest to “make every effort” to get North Korea to denuclearize, he said.
When asked what South Korea and its allies, the United States and Japan, would do if North Korea conducted another nuclear test, Yoon said the answer “will be something that has not been seen before” but declined to elaborate. work out what that would entail. .
“It would be extremely unwise for North Korea to conduct a seventh nuclear test,” he told Reuters.
In a record-breaking year for missile tests, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un said this week his country plans to have the most powerful nuclear force in the world. South Korean and US officials say Pyongyang may be preparing to resume nuclear weapons testing for the first time since 2017.
North Korea’s tests overshadowed several meetings of international leaders this month, including the Group of 20 conference in Bali, where Yoon urged Chinese President Xi Jinping to do more to contain North Korea’s nuclear and missile provocations. to keep tight. Xi urged Seoul to improve relations with Pyongyang.
Ahead of the G20, US President Joe Biden told Xi that Beijing had a duty to try to talk North Korea out of a nuclear test, though he said it was unclear whether China could do so. Biden’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, said ahead of the meeting that Biden would warn Xi that North Korea’s continued weapons development would lead to a strengthened US military presence in the region, something Beijing would not like to see.
South Korea and the United States have agreed to deploy more US “strategic assets” such as aircraft carriers and long-range bombers to the area, but Yoon said he did not expect any changes for the 28,500 US ground troops stationed in South Korea.
“We need to respond consistently, and in line with each other,” said Yoon, who blamed a lack of consistency in the international response for the failure of three decades of North Korean policy.
China fought alongside the North in the 1950-1953 Korean War and has supported it economically and diplomatically ever since, but analysts say Beijing may have limited power, and perhaps little desire, to rein in Pyongyang. China says it is maintaining UN Security Council sanctions, which it voted in favor of but has since called for them to be relaxed and, along with Russia, blocked US-led efforts to impose new sanctions.
IS AGAINST TAIWAN ‘STATUS QUO’ CHANGE
Fostering ties and coordination with Washington is at the core of Yoon’s foreign policy, a focus emphasized by the most important item on his desk: a sign reading “The Buck Stops Here,” a gift from Biden.
Like his predecessor, Moon Jae-in, Yoon is cautious amid the rising rivalry between the US and China. China is South Korea’s largest trading partner and a close partner of North Korea.
Speaking of rising tensions between China and Taiwan, Yoon said any conflict there should be resolved according to international norms and rules.
Democratic Taiwan, which China claims to be its own, is under increasing military and political pressure from Beijing, which has said it will never refrain from using force against the island.
“I strongly oppose any attempt to unilaterally change the status quo,” said Yoon.
When asked about a role in a conflict in Taiwan for South Korea or US forces stationed there, Yoon said the country’s armed forces would “consider the overall security situation,” but that their main concern is the North Korean military attempts would be to take advantage of the situation.
“What’s important is responding to the immediate threat that surrounds us and containing the potential threat,” he said.
Yoon has also made increasing cooperation with Japan a core goal, despite ongoing legal and political disputes dating back to Japan’s occupation of the Korean Peninsula in 1910-1945.
South Korea, Japan and the United States have agreed to share real-time information for tracking North Korean ballistic missile tests.
As part of its largest military expansion since World War II, Japan is expected to acquire new munitions, including extended-range missiles, spend money on cyber defenses, and create a combined air, naval, and land headquarters that will work more closely with U.S. forces in Japan.
Japan’s military ambitions have long been a touchy subject in neighboring countries, many of which were invaded before or during World War II.
Yoon’s predecessor halted many of the trilateral exercises and nearly struck an intelligence-sharing deal with Tokyo as relations deteriorated.
Now Japan faces increasing threats from North Korea’s missile program, including tests flying over Japanese islands, Yoon said.
“I believe that the Japanese government cannot sleep behind the wheel with the North Korean missile flights over their territory,” he said.
Reporting by Soyoung Kim, Jack Kim and Josh Smith; Written by Josh Smith; Edited by Nick Macfie and Gerry Doyle
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