North Korea's quest for nuclear weapons could spawn a destabilizing arms race in Asia that would
threaten world security, South Korea's president warned Friday.
"North Korea pursuing nuclear weapons capabilities is a threat,
and of course this will tempt others in the region, thereby
threatening global peace and security as well," President Lee
Myung-bak told a reception at his residence.
Lee, who spoke a day after returning from the United States
where he met President Barack Obama, also warned against the
destructive potential of nuclear weapons as well as possible
"If such nuclear technology falls into the wrong hands our
everyday lives will be filled with continuous fear and anxiety,"
he told business and economic leaders who had participated in a
two-day event in Seoul sponsored by the World Economic Forum.
Lee's comments highlighted two key worries about North Korea's
atomic ambitions, namely that countries such as Japan and South
Korea might move to develop their own arsenals if North Korea's
program is not stopped and that the North may sell its technology
His remarks came as the United States says it has deployed
anti-missile defenses around Hawaii, following reports that North
Korea is preparing to fire its most advanced ballistic missile in
that direction to coincide with the U.S. Independence Day holiday
Last week, the communist regime vowed to bolster its nuclear
arsenal and threatened war to protest U.N. sanctions in the wake of
its May 25 nuclear test, the country's second. It conducted its
first nuclear test in October 2006, and there are suspicions it is
preparing for a third.
U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Thursday that the
military has set up additional defenses around Hawaii, consisting
of a ground-based mobile missile system and a radar system nearby.
Together they could shoot an incoming missile in midair.
Gates spoke after Japan's Yomiuri newspaper reported that North
Korea might test-fire a Taepodong-2 missile with a range of up to
4,000 miles (6,500 kilometers), sometime around the U.S.
Independence Day holiday on July 4.
Yomiuri said the missile, which could be launched from North
Korea's Tongchang-ri site, would fly over Japan but would not be
able to reach Hawaii, which is about 4,500 miles (7,200 kilometers)
from the Korean peninsula.
North Korea test-fired a similar long-range missile on July 4
three years ago, but it failed seconds after liftoff.
A spokesman for the Japanese Defense Ministry declined to
comment on Yomiuri's report, which cited an analysis by Japan's
Defense Ministry and intelligence gathered by U.S. reconnaissance
South Korea's government also remained silent on the report, but
made a general appeal to North Korea to follow international norms.
"We hope that North Korea, first of all (will) give up nuclear
ambitions and abide by the agreement that we made in 1992 -- that
is, a basic agreement for denuclearization of the Korean
peninsula," South Korean Prime Minister Han Seung-soo told
The sanctions mandated by the U.N. Security Council resolution
on North Korea call on all 192 U.N. member states to inspect
vessels on the high seas - with the owner country's approval - if
they believe the cargo contains banned weapons.
In what would be the first test case for the sanctions, the U.S.
military has begun tracking a North Korean-flagged ship, Kang Nam,
which left a port in North Korea on Wednesday, two U.S. officials
The ship, which may be carrying illicit weapons, was in the
Pacific Ocean off the coast of China on Thursday, the officials
said on condition of anonymity because they were discussing
It was uncertain what the Kang Nam was carrying, but it has been
involved in weapons proliferation before, one of the officials
At United Nations headquarters in New York, the committee
monitoring sanctions against North Korea met Friday for the first
time since the adoption of the recent resolution tightening
measures against the North.
The resolution asks the committee to designate additional
companies and individuals that should have their assets frozen or
be subjected to a travel ban because of their links to the banned
weapons program. After Friday's meeting, committee chairman Baki
Ilkin, Turkey's U.N. ambassador, told reporters that some names had
been submitted for consideration and he expected more by late next
week when the committee is to meet again.