By Carole LANDRY
United Nations, United States Sept 21, 2017
North Korea's nuclear threat takes center stage at the United Nations on Thursday as US President Donald Trump holds talks with leaders of Japan and South Korea and the Security Council meets to push for sanctions to be enforced against Pyongyang.
After threatening to "totally destroy North Korea" in his first address to the General Assembly, Trump will sit down with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and South Korean leader Moon Jae-In to discuss the way forward.
Also on Thursday, Moon will take the UN podium to appeal for international support in the standoff with the North, which has carried out six nuclear tests and fired two intercontinental ballistic missiles.
The threat from North Korea's nuclear and missile tests has dominated this year's gathering of world leaders, but divisions remain over how to confront Pyongyang.
China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi and his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov, who will also deliver their speeches on Thursday, have called for diplomatic talks and warned that military action would be catastrophic.
In his UN address on Wednesday, Japan's Abe backed the tough US stance, declaring that the time for dialogue with North Korea was over and that pressure from sanctions must be brought to bear.
At the Security Council, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will push for fully implementing a new raft of sanctions targeting North Korea's exports and its energy supplies.
The council last week adopted new punitive measures, slapping an export ban on textiles, ending work permits for North Korean guest workers and capping oil shipments.
That was a significant ratcheting-up of sanctions aimed at cutting off revenue used by Pyongyang to develop its military programs, but their impact hinges mostly on China, North Korea's ally and main trading partner.
The United States called for the special council meeting on non-proliferation that will be attended by foreign ministers from the 15 countries including China, Russia and Japan.
- Military threats as a tactic -
Washington and its allies hope the tough economic sanctions will build pressure on Pyongyang to come to the table and negotiate an end to its military programs.
The US administration has refused to offer North Korea incentives to open negotiations and has ramped up threats of military action to force leader Kim Jong-Un -- whom Trump has dubbed "Rocket Man" -- to change course.
Commenting on Trump's fiery speech, French President Emmanuel Macron surmised that the "military threats can serve a purpose from a tactical point of view" to jolt Pyongyang into changing course.
"When you consider him and his father, it was only when such threats were made that negotiations did happen," Macron told reporters.
In his UN address, Abe said the world had already tried to reach a negotiated settlement with North Korea, starting with the US-backed 1994 Agreed Framework that collapsed a decade later.
"Again and again, attempts to resolve issues through dialogue have all come to naught. In what hope of success are we now repeating the very same failure a third time?" he said.
"What is needed," said Abe, "is not dialogue, but pressure."
Opening this year's gathering, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned that "fiery talk can lead to fatal misunderstandings" that could ignite a nuclear war, and called for a political solution.
Guterres is due to meet on Saturday with North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong-Ho on the sidelines of the assembly to send out feelers on possible diplomatic talks.
Ri, who takes the podium on Friday, dismissed Trump's threats to destroy his country as "a dog's bark" and said they would have zero impact.
Merkel says in 'clear disagreement' with Trump over N. Korea
"I am against such threats," Merkel said in an interview with the radio station Deutsche Welle.
"We believe that any kind of military solution is completely deficient and we support diplomatic efforts," she said.
"With regards to North Korea, I consider any other option to be without foundation. And this is why there is a clear disagreement on this point with the American president," Merkel said.
Merkel gave notice that Germany would not watch passively as the North Korean crisis unfolded.
The issue "also concerns us," she said. "And this is why I am ready -- and the foreign minister (Social Democrat Sigmar Gabriel) is ready -- to assume my responsibilities."
Trump, in his maiden speech at the UN General Assembly on Tuesday, issued a fiery warning after North Korea tested its sixth and largest nuclear bomb and defied new sanctions by launching its longest-ever missile flight over Japan.
Trump said North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un was "on a suicide mission for himself and for his regime".
If the US is "forced to defend itself or its allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea," he said.
Merkel has called for a diplomatic solution to curb North Korea's armament programme, with the 2015 Iran deal as a possible template. Trump, at the UN, also spoke witheringly of the Iran accord, calling it an "embarrassment" for the United States.
Seoul (AFP) Sept 20, 2017
With his threats to "totally destroy" North Korea, Donald Trump is playing into Pyongyang's hands by offering justification for a nuclear weapons programme it insists is for self-defence, analysts say. The US leader used his maiden speech at the UN General Assembly to deliver a blistering warning to Pyongyang, after it tested its sixth and largest nuclear bomb and responded to new sanctions ... read more
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