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South Korea, US warn of potential ‘punishment’ against North Korea

This undated picture, released by North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on April 26, 2017, shows North Korean leader Kim Jong-un (C) attending the combined fire demonstration of military forces at an airport. (Via AFP)

South Korea and the United States have agreed to take “swift punitive measures” against North Korea in the event of more “provocation” on the part of Pyongyang.

The agreement came in a telephone conversation between South Korean national security adviser Kim Kwan-jin and his US counterpart H. R. McMaster on Wednesday, the South Korean presidential office later announced.

“The two sides pledged to — in the event of additional strategic provocation by the North — swiftly take punitive measures, including a new UN Security Council resolution, that are unbearable for the North,” the office said.

The US has long exercised a policy of imposing sanctions and diplomatic pressure to force North Korea into abandoning its missile and military nuclear programs. In recent weeks, the new US administration has adopted a harsher posture vis-à-vis Pyongyang, sending a military strike force to the Korean Peninsula and declaring an end to its “strategic patience” with Pyongyang.

Top US officials have described North Korea as an urgent national security threat and top foreign policy priority.

But more recently, US officials have also signaled that they want North Korea to return to dialog over its military nuclear program. US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis pledged on Wednesday to step up pressure on North Korea to force it back to the negotiating table on its military nuclear program.

Six-party talks on the North Korean nuclear program collapsed in 2009.

Earlier, Admiral Harry Harris, who heads the US’s Pacific Command, had said in contradictory remarks, “All options are on the table. We want to bring Kim Jong-un to his senses, not to his knees,” referring to the North Korean leader.

Last year, the US and South Korea agreed to deploy an advanced US missile system in an attempt to counter potential missile strikes from the North.

Early on Wednesday, operations began to transport pieces of the missile system to a planned deployment site, about 250 kilometers south of the South Korean capital.

Police forces stand by as trailers carrying parts of a US missile system enter a deployment site in Seongju, early on April 26, 2017. (Photo by AFP)

Several hundred South Korean villagers protested near the site, hurling water bottles at vehicles moving the equipment in.

Pyongyang has expressed its strong opposition to the installment of the missile system and has said threatened to take strong military action in case it is invaded.

North Korea, already under a raft of sanctions for its missile and nuclear programs, also says it is maintaining the nuclear program as deterrence against the US. It has so far conducted five confirmed nuclear tests and numerous missile test-launches, and it is believed to be preparing for a sixth nuclear weapons test.

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