US will use all available tools against N. Korea, diplomat says
October 9, 2016
SEOUL, South Korea — The United States will use “all the tools” necessary, including military deterrence, against the growing threat from North Korea, a top U.S. diplomat said Sunday.
Samantha Power, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, expressed confidence that Washington will succeed in passing tougher sanctions and other measures being considered by the U.N. Security Council.
But she said the U.S. also was pursuing other options, including diplomatic pressure on nations to further isolate the North Korean regime.
“While Security Council resolutions are one tool in our toolbox … we are committed to using all the tools in our toolkit to address this serious threat,” she told reporters after visiting the demilitarized zone that divides the peninsula.
“Our tools also include the deterrence offered by the U.S, military, which I saw firsthand today at the DMZ,” she added.
The U.S. has about 28,500 servicemembers stationed in South Korea as the peninsula remains technically at war after the 1950-53 conflict ended in an armistice instead of a peace treaty.
Power was making her first trip to South Korea since becoming the U.N. ambassador in 2013. Her three-day visit, which began late Saturday, comes as tensions have been rising on the peninsula over North Korea’s nuclear weapons program.
North Korea has carried out two nuclear tests this year, most recently last month, along with a series of missile launches that have tested a variety of capabilities.
There has been speculation that the North is gearing up for another nuclear or missile test in connection with Monday’s anniversary of the founding of the ruling Workers’ Party. Recent satellite photos have shown activity at all three tunnels at the North’s underground test site.
Power said the sanctions need time to work, but she also acknowledged that the North has likely exploited humanitarian loopholes that need to be closed.
China, a traditional ally of the North, has been criticized for not doing enough to enforce the latest round of sanctions imposed in March. And its support for new measures is in question because of disputes over the South China Sea and U.S. plans to deploy a sophisticated missile defense system in the South.
“We are hoping to address some of the shortcomings that we have seen,” Power said, adding that ultimately it is up to U.N. member nations to “fully enforce the resolution in letter and in spirit.”
Power met earlier Sunday with newly arrived North Korean defectors living at a resettlement facility run by the South Korean government to help their transition from life in the communist state.
She criticized the North Korean regime for pouring resources into its nuclear program at the expense of its own people who suffer widely from malnutrition and poverty.
“This is a government that would rather grow its weapons programs than grow its own children,” she said.
After meeting with the defectors, she flew in a Black Hawk helicopter to the heavily fortified buffer zone, where she toured the Joint Security Area and the peace village of Panmunjom.
She looked across the blue buildings that straddle the demarcation line. One North Korean soldier stood guard outside the conference hall on that side of the border.
She also ate lunch with U.S. and South Korean soldiers who are stationed in the DMZ.
She was accompanied by Lt. Gen. Thomas Vandal, chief of staff for U.S. Forces Korea, and Col. Lee Sung-joon, secretary of the U.N. Command Military Armistice Commission.
Power, whose itinerary included a trip to Japan, sought to reassure the allies of the strength of the U.S. commitment to their security.
“Our resolve is unwavering. Our commitment is ironclad,” she said.
She also rejected the idea that President Barack Obama is seen as a lame duck in the region with U.S. elections less than a month away and his term ending in January.
“If anything we see a flurry of enthusiasm by a lot of different countries on a lot of different issues to see what we can get done together between now and Jan. 20,” she said.