Seoul, South Korea — South Korea seemed to play down the latest hot rhetoric aimed at North Korea by President Donald Trump, calling his words a signal of Washington’s strong resolve to deal with the North’s march to nuclear weapons mastery but essentially a repetition of a basic U.S. policy.
Trump told the U.N. General Assembly in a speech Tuesday that the United States would “totally destroy North Korea” if it had to defend itself or its allies. He has previously threatened the North with “fire and fury.” Pyongyang responded to those past remarks with a string of weapons tests, including its sixth and most powerful nuclear detonation and two missiles that flew over U.S. ally Japan.
A South Korean presidential official told Yonhap news agency that Trump’s comments are mostly a repetition of a basic stance that all options will be considered when confronting North Korea
Park Soo-hyun, a spokesman of South Korean President Moon Jae-in, said the amount of time Trump spent on North Korea in his speech shows how seriously Washington takes the issue.
Trump’s comments “reaffirmed the need to put maximum sanctions and pressure against North Korea’s nuclear and missile provocations,” so that Pyongyang realizes denuclearization is the only way forward for the future, Park said.
Japan welcomed a reference by Trump in his speech to North Korea’s abduction of Japanese in the 1970s and 1980s.
A Japanese official told reporters at the U.N. that Trump’s speech reflects a “deeper understanding” in the United States about the issue, according to Kyodo News service.
In a list of accusations against North Korea, Trump said “we know it kidnapped a sweet 13-year-old Japanese girl from a beach in her own country to enslave her as a language tutor for North Korea’s spies.”
The girl, Megumi Yokota, was one of at least 17 people that Japan says North Korea kidnapped in the 1970s and 1980s.
“I think it means an understanding has gotten through” to the United States and other countries, Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasutoshi Nishimura said, according to Kyodo. “We earned understanding from President Trump.”
The issue has complicated Japan’s relations with North Korea, as it seeks the return of those kidnapped while also lining up with the U.S. to take a tough stand against North Korea’s nuclear and missile tests.
North Korea’s regular weapons tests are an attempt to create an arsenal of nuclear missiles that can threaten U.S. troops throughout Asia and the U.S. mainland. Pyongyang tested its first two intercontinental ballistic missiles in July and claims that it can now accurately reach the U.S. homeland, though outside experts say the North may still need more tests before its weapons are fully viable. Each new test pushes the nation that much closer to that goal.
Diplomacy meant to rid the North of its nukes, meanwhile, has been moribund for years.
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