The United States should consider a carrot-and-stick approach to get North Korea to curb its nuclear programme, Former US Defense Secretary Robert Gates told Euronews.
In an exclusive interview on the margins of the Yalta European Strategy forum in Kyiv, Ukraine, Gates suggested Washington should attempt to reach out the reclusive state to find a political solution to the crisis.
“I think one option that the United States has before it is to put on the table a significant package of diplomatic proposals, coupled with a statement of the military actions we will take if there is no political solution to the problem,” Gates said.
“A political solution involves perhaps recognition, lifting sanctions, signing a peace treaty,” he added.
The United States and South Korea are technically still at war with North Korea because the 1950-53 Korean conflict ended with a truce and not a peace treaty. The North accuses the United States, which has 28,500 troops in South Korea, of planning to invade and regularly threatens to destroy it and its Asian allies.
Military response on the table
After firing what is said to be its farthest-reaching missile yet, North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un said on Saturday he was pursuing his nuclear goals with the aim of reaching an “equilibrium” of military force with the United States.
The missile launched on Friday was the second to fly over Japan in under a month. It’s thought to have traveled more than 3,700 kilometres — far enough to reach the US Pacific territory of Guam, which Pyongyang has threatened before.
“If North Korea launches one of those missiles and it hits an America ally – South Korea, Japan – or American territory Guam or elsewhere there almost certainly will be a military response to that,” Gates told Euronews.
Gates led the Central Intelligence under President George H. W. Bush before he was appointed defense secretary by President George W. Bush in 2006, a position he continued to hold under the Obama presidency, until 2011.
After Friday’s launch, White House National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster said the United States was fast running out of patience with North Korea’s missile and nuclear programs.
“We’ve been kicking the can down the road, and we’re out of road,” McMaster told reporters.
“For those … who have been commenting on a lack of a military option, there is a military option,” he said, adding that it would not be the Trump administration’s preferred choice.
The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, echoed McMaster’s strong rhetoric, even as she said Washington’s preferred resolution to the crisis is through diplomacy and sanctions.
“What we are seeing is, they are continuing to be provocative, they are continuing to be reckless and at that point there’s not a whole lot the Security Council is going to be able to do from here, when you’ve cut 90 percent of the trade and 30 percent of the oil,” Haley said.
Meeting in emergency session on Friday, the UN Security Council condemned the latest missile launch as “highly provocative”, just days after it voted a fresh round of sanctions on North Korea. The Council is due to meet again next Thursday.