SEOUL (Reuters) - Former U.S. presidential candidate Hillary Clinton said on Wednesday that “cavalier” threats to start war on the Korean peninsula were “dangerous and short-sighted”, urging the United States to get all parties to the negotiating table.
Clinton also called on China to take a “more outfront role” in enforcing sanctions against North Korea aimed at curbing its missile and nuclear development.
“There is no need for us to be bellicose and aggressive (over North Korea),” Clinton told the World Knowledge Forum in the South Korean capital of Seoul, stressing the need for more pressure on North Korea and diplomacy to bring Pyongyang to talks.
Tension between Pyongyang and Washington has soared following a series of weapons tests by North Korea and a string of increasingly bellicose exchanges between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
“Picking fights with Kim Jong Un puts a smile on his face,” Clinton said, without mentioning Trump by name.
Clinton also indirectly referred to Trump’s social media comments on North Korea, saying, “The insults on Twitter have benefited North Korea, I don’t think they’ve benefited the United States”.
The war of words has seen Trump call the North Korean leader “little rocket man” on a suicide mission, and vow to destroy the country if it threatens the United States or its allies. In turn, the North called Trump “mentally deranged” and a “mad dog”.
Talks between the adversaries have long been urged by China in particular, but Washington and its ally Japan have been reluctant while Pyongyang continues to pursue a goal of developing a nuclear-tipped missile to hit the United States.
On Tuesday, Deputy Secretary of State John J. Sullivan said the United States did not rule out the eventual possibility of direct talks with North Korea.
The situation on the Korean peninsula was now touch-and-go point “and a nuclear war may break out any moment”, North Korea’s Deputy U.N. Ambassador Kim In Ryong had told a U.N. General Assembly committee on Monday.
In Seoul, the vice foreign minister said on Wednesday South Korea was considering levying its own sanctions on the North, although no decision has been made yet.
Clinton, a former U.S. secretary of state, said Washington’s allies have increasingly been expressing concern over the reliability of the United States, advising Washington to avoid becoming distracted with North Korean threats and be “as forcefully patient” as possible.
Regarding China’s role in reining in North Korea, Clinton said Beijing would be better off trying to “tighten and absolutely enforce sanctions” against North Korea.
North Korea’s relationship with its main ally and trading partner China have been strained by its rapid pursuit of weapons programmes, with many of Pyongyang’s recent tests coinciding with major Chinese events.
There had been fears that North Korea would conduct another test to coincide with the start of China’s five-yearly party congress on Wednesday. Instead, Pyongyang sent Beijing a congratulatory message.
The central committee of the North’s ruling Workers’ Party of Korea said China had made “great progress in accomplishing the cause of building socialism with Chinese characteristics” under the guidance of the Communist Party of China.
“We are greatly pleased over this,” the party central committee said in the message carried by the official KCNA news agency, adding that it “sincerely wished” the China congress “satisfactory success”.
Chinese President Xi Jinping did not mention North Korea in his more than three-hour-long address at the opening of a key Communist Party Congress.
Clinton said retaliatory actions by China over the deployment of a U.S. anti-missile system in South Korea, which targeting the latter’s firms doing business in China, would be unnecessary had Beijing done a better job reining in the North.
China says the powerful radar of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defence (THAAD) system could be used to pierce its territory, and has taken aim at South Korea’s businesses. South Korea and the United States have repeatedly told China that THAAD aims only to defend against North Korea’s missile threats.
“The Chinese can’t have it both ways,” Clinton said. “They can’t do less than they could to tighten economic pressures on North Korea and same time discount the real threat South Korea and its citizens face.”
Reporting by Christine Kim; Additional reporting by Soyoung Kim and Hyonhee Shin; Editing by Lincoln Feast and Clarence Fernandez