(AA) — U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry accused North Korea of “recklessly abandoning” its international obligations, as he addressed a joint press conference in Seoul after holding talks with his South Korean counterpart Monday.
Kerry was referring to Pyongyang’s nuclear weapon ambitions, after the North’s announcement earlier this month that it had successfully test-fired a ballistic missile from a submarine — in breach of United Nations resolutions.
The secretary also described North Korea’s ongoing purge of officials as “grotesque, grisly, horrendous public displays of executions.”
South Korean intelligence officials recently reported that the North’s defense minister was executed at the end of last month using an anti-aircraft gun.
While Kerry and South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se vowed to continue efforts to bring about meaningful dialogue with Pyongyang, they also said that they would bolster other options.
“We took note of uncertainty over North Korea’s internal situations. We agreed to strengthen joint deterrence and coordination,” Yun told reporters.
There was no public mention of South Korea potentially deploying a U.S. missile defense system known as THAAD (Terminal High Altitude Area Defense).
Some local lawmakers, China and Russia have opposed the adoption of THAAD on Korean soil — Washington’s influence on the peninsula is already strengthened by the presence of nearly 30,000 American military personnel.
But Kerry insisted that “there is no daylight, not an inch, not a centimeter, not a microscope of difference” between the U.S. and South Korea in their approach to North Korea’s provocation and its nuclear program.
The Seoul-Washington alliance, which the secretary said was “absolutely stronger than ever,” runs alongside the U.S. relationship with South Korea’s neighbor Japan.
Kerry was not afraid, however, to risk Japan’s wrath when he echoed President Barack Obama’s use of the word “egregious” in reference to Tokyo’s colonial era abuse of so-called comfort women.
Seoul has been pressuring Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to apologize to now elderly former sex slaves — thousands of whom were Korean women drafted into service during Tokyo’s 1910-45 rule.
Abe is set to make a statement marking the end of World War II later this year, but he is not expected to directly address the comfort women issue.