I just watched Secretary Kerry's remarks from Seoul. He emphasized the critical points – strength and resolve of the alliance, defense of our allies and ourselves, unification, and President Park's "trustpolitik" and US support to it. I was happy to hear he mentioned unification. (side note: I remain perplexed and disappointed that retired General Spider Marks would say on one of his CNN briefings that the ROK and US have no plans to unify Korea and that the UN Command exists to maintain the Armistice and maintain both a north and South Korea. He later toned down his remarks and has not repeated that and CNN has not posted that specific podcast but I almost fell out of my chair when I heard him say that)
However, one of the most telling comments that puts the Secretary's personal priorities in perspective is that he noted that (I am paraphrasing) "..in 30, no 45 years, of traveling to Asia this is the first trip he has ever made to Seoul."
Kerry: 'U.S. will defend its allies'
Staff and wire reports
6:34 a.m. EDT April 12, 2013
(Photo: Lee Jin-man, AP)
- Kerry kicked off his Asian tour Friday
- Threats of missile tests from North Korea loom
- His trip coincides with disclosure of a new U.S. intelligence report
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in South Korea on Friday on an unusual diplomatic journey, traveling directly into a region bracing for a possible North Korean missile test and risking that his presence alone could spur Pyongyang into another headline-seeking provocation.
In a news conference in Seoul, Kerry said North Korea would not be accepted as a nuclear power and that the current rhetoric from the nation is "unacceptable."
"The U.S. will defend its allies if necessary," Kerry said. He said that the U.S. was prepared to engage in talks with North Korea but only if the nation was serious about denuclearization.
Kerry was kicking off four days of talks in East Asia amid speculation that the North's unpredictable regime would launch a mid-range missile designed to reach as far as the U.S. territory of Guam. Kerry also planned to visit China and Japan.
Kerry said that China has the ability to make an enormous difference to the situation by applying pressure to Pyongyang.
North Korea often times its provocations to generate maximum attention, and Kerry's presence in Seoul will provide plenty of that, even if the United States is engaged in intense diplomacy with China, the North's benefactor, in an effort to lower tensions. Another dangerous date on the calendar is April 15, the 101st birthday of North Korea's deceased founder, Kim Il Sung.
Kerry's trip coincides with the disclosure of a new U.S. intelligence report that concludes North Korea has advanced its nuclear knowhow to the point that it could arm a ballistic missile with a nuclear warhead. The analysis, disclosed Thursday at a congressional hearing in Washington, said the Pentagon's intelligence wing has "moderate confidence" that North Korea has nuclear weapons capable of delivery by ballistic missiles but that the weapon would be unreliable.
Pentagon spokesman George Little said afterward that "it would be inaccurate to suggest that the North Korean regime has fully tested, developed or demonstrated the kinds of nuclear capabilities referenced" at the congressional hearing.
James Clapper, the director of national intelligence, said he concurred with Little and noted that the report alluded to at the hearing was compiled by the Pentagon's Defense Intelligence Agency and was not an assessment by the entire U.S. intelligence community. "Moreover, North Korea has not yet demonstrated the full range of capabilities necessary for a nuclear armed missile," he said.
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