The head of the NATO military alliance has denounced North Korea’s latest nuclear test but said a “peaceful” solution to the dispute with Pyongyang is being explored for now.
NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg made the remarks in an interview with BBC television on Sunday, reiterating the alliance’s previous calls on Pyongyang to abandon its nuclear and ballistic missile programs.
“The reckless behavior of North Korea is a global threat and requires a global response and that of course also includes NATO,” Stoltenberg said, adding that, “We are now totally focused on how we can contribute to a peaceful solution of the conflict.”
Stoltenberg was speaking days after Pyongyang carried out its sixth and largest nuclear test that affected global financial markets and further escalated tensions on the Korean Peninsula.
UK says war should be avoided at all costs
Separately, British Defense Minister Michael Fallon told the BBC that London was working “extremely closely” with Washington to bring about a diplomatic solution to the situation, stressing that military conflict with North Korea should be avoided at all costs.
“We’re doing now what we can to bring about a diplomatic solution. What we have to avoid at all costs is this spilling over into any kind of military conflict, so we’re working flat out at the UN to get a better resolution there, to enforce the existing sanctions, we’re looking at sanctions across the EU and of course we’re trying to persuade China to keep its neighbor in check,” he said.
Fallon said the UK should take the North Korean threat seriously as Europe was nearer to Pyongyang than the US.
“I’m very concerned at the situation in the Pacific, the US is fully entitled to defend its own territory, to defend its bases and to look after its people. But this involves us, London is closer to North Korea and its missiles than Los Angeles,” the British defense minister said.
Fallon, however, said that North Korea lacked the capability to fly a missile as far as the UK.
Military action not inevitable option: Trump
Meanwhile, US President Donald Trump has said the US continued to consider the military option against North Korea but did not regard it as “inevitable.”
“Military action would certainly be an option,” Trump said at a White House news conference alongside the leader of Kuwait on Thursday. “Is it inevitable? Nothing is inevitable. It would be great if something else could be worked out.”
“I would prefer not going the route of the military, but it’s something certainly that could happen,” he said.
Last month, Trump threatened to unleash America’s “fire and fury like the world has never seen” on North Korea if Pyongyang continued to threaten the US.
‘US to propose harsh sanctions resolution’
The Trump administration also reportedly plans to call on the United Nations Security Council on Monday to impose an oil embargo and a partial naval blockade on North Korea.
A draft resolution prepared by the US and seen by The Observer will call for a ban on any exports of “crude oil, condensates, refined petroleum products, and natural gas liquids” to North Korea.
It will also call for a prohibition on the import of textiles and an end to the hiring of North Korean nationals on the grounds that the country uses the foreign currency earned “to support its prohibited nuclear and ballistic missile programs.
The Trump administration has claimed to have a “plan B” if the UN resolution fails, with the president having threatened to cut off trade with any country that continues to do business with North Korea.
Merkel urges diplomacy
Meanwhile, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has expressed readiness to participate in diplomatic initiatives to end the dispute over North Korea’s weapons programs, pointing to the diplomacy that helped resolve a dispute with Iran in 2015 as a model to tackle international disagreements.
“If our participation in [North Korea resolution] talks is desired, I will immediately say yes,” Merkel said in an interview with Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung due to be published on Sunday, according to Reuters.
Merkel pointed to the landmark nuclear agreement that was clinched between Iran and world powers in 2015 and said the negotiations that led to the deal were “a long but important time of diplomacy” that ultimately had a “good end.”
“I could imagine such a format being used to end the North Korea conflict. Europe and especially Germany should be prepared to play a very active part in that,” she added.
Germany was one of the countries that participated in the negotiations with Iran prior to the 2015 deal.
The German chancellor also stressed that diplomacy was the only way to deal with Pyongyang’s nuclear and missiles programs, arguing that, “A new arms race starting in the region would not be in anyone’s interests.”
Europe should stand united in trying to bring about a diplomatic solution and “do everything that can be done in terms of sanctions,” Merkel said.
North Korea is under mounting international pressure over its missile and military nuclear programs and has been subjected to an array of United Nations sanctions.
However, Pyongyang says it will not give up on its nuclear deterrence unless Washington ends its hostile policy toward the country and dissolves the US-led UN command in South Korea. Thousands of US soldiers are stationed in South Korea and Japan.
North Korea celebrates nuclear success
Also on Monday, North Korea held a large ceremony to celebrate the September 3 nuclear test. North Korean leader Kim Jong-un congratulated the nuclear scientists and technicians involved in the test.
North Korean state media said Kim praised the “perfect success” of the country’s latest test and described it as the “great auspicious event of the national history.”
The North Korean leader also called for “redoubled efforts” to complete the country’s mission to fully become a recognized nuclear power.
Reports say Seoul is bracing for a possible missile test by the North as it marks its 69th founding anniversary.