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Kerry warns North Korea but seeks peaceful solution

John Forbes Kerry

US Secretary of State John Kerry vowed the United States would protect its Asian allies against any provocative acts by North Korea but stressed that Washington wants a peaceful solution to rising tensions in the region.

The North has threatened for weeks to attack the United States, South Korea and Japan since new U.N. sanctions were imposed in response to its latest nuclear arms test in February. Speculation has mounted of a new missile launch or nuclear test.

“I think it is really unfortunate that there has been so much focus and attention in the media and elsewhere on the subject of war, when what we really ought to be talking about is the possibility of peace. And I think there are those possibilities,” Kerry told a news conference in Tokyo after a meeting with his Japanese counterpart, Fumio Kishida.

Kerry was in Japan for the final stop on an Asian tour aimed at solidifying support for curbing North Korea’s nuclear program, and reassuring U.S. allies.

Kerry said the United States would “do what was necessary” to defend its allies Japan and South Korea, but added: “Our choice is to negotiate, our choice is to move to the table and find a way for the region to have peace.”

Kerry also sought to clarify his comments made in Beijing on Saturday, which some took to suggest he might be offering to remove recently boosted missile defense capabilities in Asia if China persuaded North Korea to abandon its atomic programs.

The Pentagon in recent weeks has announced plans to position two Aegis guided-missile destroyers in the western Pacific and a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile defense system to Guam.

“The president of the United States deployed some additional missile defense capacity precisely because of the threat of North Korea. And it is logical that if the threat of North Korea disappears because the peninsula denuclearizes, then obviously that threat no longer mandates that kind of posture. But there have been no agreements, no discussions, there is nothing actually on the table with respect to that,” Kerry said.

Japan’s Kishida told the same news conference that the two allies want Pyongyang to abandon its nuclear ambitions.

“We agreed that North Korea should cease provocative speech and behavior and show it is taking concrete action toward denuclearisation,” he said.

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