U.N. Says World May ‘Sleepwalk’ to War with North Korea, Which Just Told Trump to Wake Up

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Members of South Korea’s Special Weapon and Tactics (SWAT) take part in a security drill ahead of the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium in Pyeongchang, South Korea, on December 12. With no signs of tensions with North Korea easing, South Korea has stepped up security for the February games. Kim Hong-Ji/Reuters

The U.N. has warned that a world war could break out if actions are not taken to ease the rapidly escalating tensions between the U.S. and North Korea, which has threatened to respond to any attempts to disarm its nuclear arsenal with devastating force.

After a meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres told reporters in Tokyo that the international community had to band together to ensure that U.N. Security Council sanctions “be fully implemented” against North Korea, but also that nations “allow for the possibility of diplomatic engagement” with Kim Jong Un, Reuters reported. Kim, the young supreme leader who inherited his post after his father’s death in 2011, has vastly expanded North Korea’s military prowess, and the U.N. has struggled to pressure his administration, while also avoiding the outbreak of a deadly nuclear conflict.

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“The worst possible thing that could happen is for us all to sleepwalk into a war that might have very dramatic circumstances,” Guterres said, according to The Japan Times.

The outlet also reported on Guterres’ remarks after the conference, in which he implicitly criticized Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s offer to enter talks with North Korea, saying “dialogue must have an objective.” Tillerson suggested Wednesday during a talk at the Atlantic Council, a Washington think tank affiliated with Western military alliance NATO, that the U.S. was “ready to talk any time North Korea would like to talk” and “ready to have the first meeting without preconditions.”

He then, however, effectively set preconditions by claiming North Korea would have to first stop weapons testing and be willing to alter its nuclear stance, according to an analysis by Texas-based geopolitical intelligence platform Stratfor. The White House’s National Security Council then said Thursday that talks would only come after North Korea refrained “from any further provocations” and took “meaningful actions toward denuclearization” in a statement sent to CNN. The remarks emphasized that “clearly now is not the time.”

North Korea also spoke out Thursday, blasting President Donald Trump’s administration and its proposal to institute a full naval blockade against the reclusive, militarized state. In a statement carried by the official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), North Korea’s Foreign Ministry said it considered such a move “an act of war.” In a separate piece, official North Korean cabinet newspaper Minju Joson said the Trump administration had not yet come to terms with the reality of the situation.

“Not yet waken from a sleep, the Trump group is attempting to seek a way out by pursuing a policy of military confrontation, but this is nothing but a death-bed struggle by those alarmed by the might of the DPRK always emerging victorious,” the paper wrote, using an acronym for North Korea’s official title—the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

GettyImages-891985944 The chorus and orchestra perform for the participants of the 8th Munitions Industry Conference at Ryugyong Chung Ju Yung Gymnasium in Pyongyang, North Korea, according to this photo released by North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), on December 14. AFP PHOTO/KCNA VIA KNS

Since Trump took office nearly a year ago, the ever-tense relationship between the U.S. and North Korea has taken on a new dimension. The two states have been enemies since the Korean Peninsula, formerly occupied by imperial Japan, was split following World War II and the U.S. supported U.N.-backed South Korea against the Communist North Korean forces supported by China and the Soviet Union in the early 1950s. After three years of vicious battles and a stalemate roughly along the prewar lines, the two sides reached an armistice and have technically been at war ever since.

The stakes of this ongoing conflict, seen as a Cold War flashpoint throughout the second half of the 20th century, took on a nuclear dimension in the 21st century when North Korea tested its first nuclear weapon in 2006. Eleven years and five more tests later, the country not only tested a powerful hydrogen bomb this year, but intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of striking anywhere in the U.S., a development it has sought in order to deter a U.S. invasion.

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