American diplomacy is moving this weekend from the South Korean capital Seoul to Beijing and Tokyo, as tension surrounding North Korea’s ongoing military threats continues. There are fears that Pyongyang may use Monday’s birthday of the country’s founder to launch a missile.
US Secretary of State John Kerry is visiting China on Saturday and then Japan on Sunday in a bid to defuse the tension and reassure allies. He is expected to put more pressure on Beijing to work harder to tame its belligerent neighbour.
Before leaving South Korea, he promised that Washington would defend its allies in the region if necessary.
“We are all united in the fact that North Korea will not be accepted as a nuclear power. The rhetoric that we are hearing from North Korea is simply unacceptable by any standard,” he said.
Pyongyang has turned that rhetoric on Tokyo, which has authorised the military to destroy any North Korean missile that threatens Japanese territory. State media said Japan was in North Korea’s line of fire, promising “nuclear flames.”
Tourists visiting the demilitarised zone dividing the two Koreas were joined by four former South Korean spies who spent time in the North, during and after the Korean War. They and modern military experts alike are in the dark as to the reality behind the stark nuclear threats still emanating from Pyongyang.
“It is more serious than the past,” said one of the ex-spies, 62-year-old Park Young-Rae. “At that time a reasonable man was ruling North Korea, but North Korean leadership is not reasonable nowadays, so we are more worried.”