North Korea: William Hague warns of threat

South Korean defence minister Kim Kwan'jin's image is used for target practice. Picture: Getty Images
South Korean defence minister Kim Kwan'jin's image is used for target practice. Picture: Getty Images
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Britain “should be concerned” about North Korea’s activities, William Hague said yesterday.

The Foreign Secretary said the “danger of miscalculation” by Kim Jong-un’s regime, which had worked itself up into a “frenetic state of rhetoric”, must be considered.

But he insisted it was vital the international community remained calm and stressed there were no signs that North Korea was beginning to reposition its forces ready for war.

“There’s a threat to the world from any country breaching the non-proliferation treaty, which North Korea is doing, acting in contravention of a whole series of UN Security Council resolutions and setting out to develop more and more longer-range weapons, testing new nuclear weapons and indulging in the proliferation of many items to other countries as well,” Mr Hague said.

“We should be concerned about that. There is a danger in that. But it is important to stress that we haven’t seen in recent days, in recent weeks, a change in what is happening in North Korean society.

“We have not been able to observe that. We’ve haven’t seen the repositioning of forces or the redeployment of ground forces that one might see in a period prior to a military assault or to an all-out conflict.”

Mr Hague declined to speculate on whether the 29-year-old dictator was “nuts”.

He said: “I don’t know the man myself, of course. It’s not easy, although we have an embassy there, it’s not easy to get face-to-face discussions with North Korean leaders, so I’m not going to speculate about the psychology of the leader of North Korea, except in the terms that I have already spoken about – that authoritarian and totalitarian regimes, perfectly rationally from the point of view of their own survival in the short term, often do this sort of thing, try to ramp up an external threat.”

Mr Hague was speaking after North Korea announced on Friday that it would not guarantee the safety of international embassies in Pyongyang if war broke out.

The Foreign Office has said it has “no immediate plans to withdraw” Britain’s embassy in Pyongyang and condemned the “provocations” of the North Korean regime.

Mr Hague said the regime claimed to have weapons that could hit the United States, and he echoed Prime Minister David Cameron’s claim that the situation backed the case for a Trident successor.

“If they did so, well, then most of Europe and the United Kingdom would be within range as well, so it is an illustration of how it is very important, in the future decades, to keep our own ultimate line of defence and to have a successor to the Trident submarines.”

The heightened tensions with North Korea have led the US to postpone congressional testimony by its top military commander in South Korea and delay an intercontinental ballistic missile test.

General James Thurman, the commander of the 28,000 American troops in South Korea, will stay in Seoul as “a prudent measure”, Colonel Amy Hannah said in an e-mail.

The top US officer, General Martin Dempsey said the US had been preparing for further provocations or action, “considering the risk that they may choose to do something” on one of two nationally important anniversaries in April – the birth of North Korean founder Kim Il-sung and the creation of the North Korean army.

The Pentagon has also postponed a ballistic missile test set for the coming week at Vandenberg air force base in Cali fornia.