U.S., S. Korea hold defense talks amid threats
SEOUL, South Korea (AP) – Top U.S. and South Korean defense officials met today for talks expected to focus on heightened tensions over North Korea’s nuclear and missile threats. South Korean President Lee Myung-bak called the North a “stumbling block” to world peace and security.
Defense Undersecretary Michele Flournoy’s trip to Seoul came as the U.S. sought international support for aggressively enforcing a U.N. sanctions resolution aimed at punishing Pyongyang for its second nuclear test last month.
North Korea has in response escalated threats of war, with a slew of harsh rhetoric including warnings that it would unleash a “fire shower of nuclear retaliation” and “wipe out the (U.S.) aggressors” in the event of a conflict.
On Thursday, the communist regime organized a massive anti-American rally in Pyongyang where some 100,000 participants vowed to “crush” the U.S. One senior speaker told the crowd that the North will respond to any sanctions or U.S. provocations with “an annihilating blow.”
That was seen as a pointed threat as an American destroyer shadowed a North Korean freighter sailing off China’s coast, possibly with banned goods on board. The North Korean-flagged ship, Kang Nam 1, is the first to be tracked under the U.N. resolution.
Flournoy’s Asia trip, which already took her to Beijing and Tokyo, also followed signs that North Korea is gearing up to test-fire short- or medium-range missiles in violation of the U.N. resolution. Pyongyang has issued a no-sail zone in waters off its east coast, effective from Thursday through July 10.