United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said Thursday that Security Council members must unite to denuclearize North Korea, warning that the worst case scenario would be “sleepwalking” into war.
“The unity of the Security Council is crucial” to allow possible “diplomatic engagement that allows denuclearization to take place in a peaceful way,” Guterres told a group of reporters soon after a meeting in Tokyo with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
The meeting came after U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Tuesday that Washington was ready to have direct talks with North Korea without preconditions. But on Wednesday the White House distanced itself from that idea, announcing that North Korea must first improve its behavior in order for negotiations to take place.
Guterres on Thursday stressed that Security Council resolutions “need to be fully implemented” by Pyongyang as well as by other countries, whose roles he termed “crucial” for making sure the sanctions are put in place.
“The worst possible thing that could happen is for us all to sleepwalk into a war that might have very dramatic circumstances,” Guterres said.
Later that day, Guterres told a news conference at the Japan National Press Club in Tokyo that the recent visit to Pyongyang made by U.N. Undersecretary-General for Political Affairs Jeffrey Feltman was successful, although noted that “it is difficult to immediately measure” the result of diplomacy.
Feltman was quoted Tuesday as saying that North Korean officials had told him it was important to prevent war but offered no concrete proposal for talks.
“I think that the important thing was to convey a very strong message. And the message was conveyed,” Guterres said, adding that in addition to Security Council resolutions, “there must be a sense of urgency in creating the conditions for meaningful dialogue to achieve denuclearization.”
Guterres also commented on Tillerson’s remarks, implying that they lacked an objective.
“Dialogue must have an objective. (The) objective for us is to achieve denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, and to do it in a peaceful manner. This is what we define as a useful dialogue that is necessary,” Guterres said.
After meeting with Guterres earlier in the day on Thursday, Abe said he agreed on the need to maximize efforts to denuclearize North Korea.
“We discussed the matter of North Korea and fully agreed that denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula is essential for regional peace and stability,” Abe said. “We shared the recognition that as North Korea continues to develop nuclear and missile programs, we must fully implement the United Nations Security Council resolutions and have a meaningful dialogue toward denuclearization.”
Tokyo has maintained that now is the time to “maximize pressure” on North Korea using sanctions, a plan of action agreed by Abe and U.S. President Donald Trump after their summit talks in Japan last month.
On Wednesday, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said that Tokyo and Washington remain “100 percent” in agreement on the pressure stance, while a senior Foreign Ministry official said that Japan and the U.S. must make “meaningful” progress on the nuclear issue.
After meeting with Prime Minister Abe, Guterres also paid tribute to the Japanese citizens who were forcibly abducted by North Korean agents in the 1970s and 1980s, promising to make his best efforts to bring them home.
“We want to express our total condemnation in relation to the abductions that took place, and our strong commitment to do everything we can . . . for that horrendous situation to end, that causes so much suffering to so many Japanese families,” Guterres said.