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(Yonhap Interview) Seoul's top diplomat says N.K. quickly approaching completion of nuke armament

2017/10/22 10:49

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BRUSSELS, Oct. 22 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's top diplomat has said North Korea is quickly reaching the stage of possessing complete nuclear capabilities, as she visited Europe to seek international cooperation on the issue.

In an interview with Yonhap News Agency in Brussels on Saturday, Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha also said North Korea is prepared to carry out additional provocations at any time.

"Parts of its tunnel have been destroyed after the North conducted the sixth nuclear test, but it has more than one of them so (an additional nuke test) can be done at any time," she said.

Regarding the recent comments from Mike Pompeo, director of the Central Intelligence Agency, that North Korea could be "months" away from perfecting the ability to strike the United States with a nuclear weapon, Kang said, "It is true" that Pyongyang is quickly approaching such a capability.

"North Korea declaring the completion of its nuke weapon and it having a strategy on how to actually use it are different issues," she added.

Tensions have been rising between the U.S. and North Korea, with each side spouting bellicose rhetoric and threatening military actions.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has vowed to take the "highest-level" measures against Washington as Trump threatened to "totally destroy" the North if the U.S. is forced to defend itself and its allies. Trump called the North's ruler Kim "Rocket Man" and Kim dubbed Trump a "dotard."

   Kang embarked on her six-day trip to Europe on Thursday to seek cooperation in dealing with North Korea's nuclear problem. It marks her first visit to Europe since taking office in June.

On Friday, Kang met with her Belgian counterpart Didier Reynders and Federica Mogherini, the European Union's top diplomat.

"We confirmed international community's full support on our approach to resolving the North Korea's nuke issue," she said, adding there was a shared understanding that the purpose of the sanctions on Pyongyang is to bring it to talks for denuclearization.

Regarding Washington's recent show of force with its strategic assets, Kang said it is a deterrent force to North Korea's provocations.

"It is another tool to support our diplomatic pressure (on the North)," she said.

Earlier this month, two U.S. B-1B bombers carried out surprise nighttime exercises over the waters off South Korea's east and west coasts in a show of force against North Korea.

Officials said the U.S. is expected to fly B-1B bombers over South Korea every two to three weeks to help deter the communist nation.

This photo taken Oct. 21, 2017, shows Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha during an interview with Yonhap News Agency in Brussels. (Yonhap) This photo taken Oct. 21, 2017, shows Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha during an interview with Yonhap News Agency in Brussels. (Yonhap)