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State Secretary Kerry Warns North Korea Against Testing More Missiles

April 12, 2013 at 12:00 AM EDT

JEFFREY BROWN: The unease over North Korea’s military intentions topped the agenda today for Secretary of State John Kerry. He traveled to the region and put the North on notice: Don’t go too far.

The secretary of state arrived in Seoul for meetings with South Korea’s new president, Park Geun-hye, and her top aides. And he again warned North Korea’s young leader, Kim Jong-un, against any new missile launch.

SECRETARY OF STATE JOHN KERRY, United States: It is a huge mistake for him to choose to do that because it will further isolate his country.

JEFFREY BROWN: The North has recently moved as many as five medium-range missiles to its east coast, missiles that can reach as far away as Guam.

A possible launch was made more worrisome by parts of a Pentagon report that became public yesterday. At a House hearing, Colorado Republican Doug Lamborn questioned Joint Chiefs Chairman Martin Dempsey and read out findings by the DIA, the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency.

REP. DOUG LAMBORN, R-Colo.: DIA assesses with moderate confidence that North Korea currently has nuclear weapons capable of delivery by ballistic missiles. However, the reliability will be low.

GEN. MARTIN DEMPSEY, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman: And your question is, do I agree with the DIA’s assessment?


MARTIN DEMPSEY: Well, I haven’t seen it, and you said it’s not publicly released, so I choose not to comment on it.

JEFFREY BROWN: A Pentagon statement later played down that assessment saying — quote — “It would inaccurate to suggest that the North Korean regime has fully tested, developed or demonstrated the kinds of nuclear capabilities referenced in the passage.”

And the director of national intelligence, James Clapper, said the DIA report is not the judgment of the overall intelligence community.

Back in Seoul today, Secretary Kerry also rejected the analysis. And, he said, the North should have no illusions that its small nuclear weapons capability gives it world standing.

JOHN KERRY: 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.

JEFFREY BROWN: In turn, South Korea’s foreign minister struck a firm but moderate tone toward the North.

FOREIGN MINISTER YUN BYUNG-SE, South Korea: We have kept to our principle that we will maintain a strong deterrence and will respond strongly to North Korea’s provocations.

JEFFREY BROWN: But threats from the North, coupled with concerns about its young untested leader have ratcheted up tensions.

Near the Yalu River border with China today, a North Korean paratrooper exercise was conducted for a second day. At the same time, the atmosphere in Pyongyang was festive, with people preparing to celebrate the birth of Kim Il-Sung, the communist state’s founder.

In an odd juxtaposition, orchids were being tended near models of ballistic missiles.

Kim Jong-gum is a flower show guide.

KIM JONG-GUM, Flower Show Guide: The situation is now very complicated, but families are still full of laughter. I don’t know whether there will be a missile launch test, but if we do, I think it will be just for national defense.

JEFFREY BROWN: The U.S. has more than 28,000 troops in the South, and has made recent shows of force, over flights by bombers and fighter jets. Missile defense and naval assets also have moved into the region.

In the event of actual conflict, the Combined Forces Command would carry out the response. An American general sits atop that chain of command with a South Korean deputy; 600,000 troops from both nations are at their disposal.