Kerry slams N. Korea provocations, 'grotesque' abuses
SEOUL - Agence France-Presse
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry answers a reporter's question during a joint news conference following meetings with South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se, unseen, at the Foreign Ministry in Seoul, South Korea, Monday, May 18, 2015. REUTERS PhotoUS Secretary of State John Kerry on May 18 called for increased pressure on North Korea as he slammed Kim Jong-Un's "egregious" leadership and "grotesque" executions of Pyongyang officials.
Speaking in the South Korean capital Seoul, Kerry said recent provocations, including the test of a new submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM), demonstrated that North Korea was nowhere near showing the commitment to denuclearisation demanded by the international community.
"Instead, it continues to pursue nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles, it continues to break promises and make threats, and it continues to show flagrant disregard for international laws," he told a joint press conference with South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byong-Se.
"That is why it is important for us to ramp up international pressure for North Korea to change its behaviour," he added.
Just over a week ago, the North said it had successfully test-fired an SLBM, defying a UN ban on Pyongyang using or testing ballistic missile technology.
A fully-developed SLBM capability would take the North Korean nuclear threat to a new level, allowing deployment far beyond the Korean peninsula and the potential to retaliate in the event of a nuclear attack.
In a scathing attack on Kim Jong-Un, Kerry said his leadership was one of the most "egregious displays ... anywhere on the planet" of reckless disregard for human rights.
He specifically cited "stories of grotesque, grisly, horrendous public displays of executions" carried out of a personal whim by Kim -- often against those closest to him.
South Korea's intelligence agency reported last week that North Korea's defence minister, Hyon Yong-Chol, had been purged and most likely executed for insubordination and dozing off during a formal military rally.
The agency said it had unverified reports that the execution had been carried out at close range with a high-calibre anti-aircraft gun.
A previous NIS report said Kim had ordered the execution of 15 other senior officials so far this year, including two vice ministers, for questioning his authority.
Kerry said it was "absolutely critical" for the international community to keep shedding light on human rights violations, after a UN report last year detailed widespread abuses and recommended Pyongyang be referred to the International Criminal Court in The Hague.
"If their horrific conduct continues, it's hard to see how that referral to the criminal court would not take place," Kerry said.
In an effort to revive long-stalled denuclearisation talks, Washington has said it is open to discussions with Pyongyang, but Kerry reiterated that the North Korean leadership must show a genuine commitment to reining in its nuclear programme.
"To this moment, particularly with its recent provocations, it is clear that (North Korea) has not even come close to meeting that standard," he said.
Kerry, who held talks earlier in the morning with President Park Geun-Hye, insisted that the US-South Korea military alliance was "stronger than ever" in the face of North Korea's belligerence.
South Korea hosts a permanent deployment of close to 30,000 US troops and holds annual joint exercises that rehearse numerous conflict scenarios with the North.
"Let me underscore, there is no daylight, not an inch, not a centimetre ... of difference between the United States and South Korea in our approach to the question of North Korea's provocations and its nuclear programme," Kerry said.
He also reiterated hopes that the successful conclusion of an atomic deal with Iran would encourage North Korea to resume six-party negotiations on its nuclear programme.
The talks, grouping North and South Korea, Japan, the United States, China and Russia, were aimed at getting North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons in return for economic and diplomatic benefits, and security guarantees.
But the six-party forum has not met since December 2008.
A recent report by US researchers warned that North Korea appeared poised to expand that programme over the next five years and, in a worst-case scenario, could possess 100 atomic arms by 2020.
North Korea carried out nuclear tests in 2006, 2009 and 2013.
Later May 18, Kerry was scheduled to lay out a comprehensive foreign policy speech on the use of cyber-space, including issues of cyber-security.
Seoul has blamed North Korean hackers for a series of devastating cyber-attacks on military institutions, banks, government agencies, TV broadcasters and media websites in recent years.
The United States also blamed the North for a cyber-attack on Sony Pictures over its North Korea-themed satire "The Interview" last year.