DFA: War not imminent

Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario. AP FILE PHOTO

Seeing no imminent outbreak of war on the Korean Peninsula, Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario on Saturday postponed a trip to Seoul as foreign diplomats in Pyongyang huddled to discuss a North Korean evacuation advisory that had sparked fears the isolated state was preparing to launch attacks on the South and the United States.

 

Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) spokesperson Raul Hernandez said Del Rosario postponed his trip to Seoul to give the foreign office time to assess the situation on the Korean Peninsula, where there are 40,000 Filipinos.

 

Hernandez said the DFA consulted “international partners” on the situation and learned that there were “no indications of an imminent threat” of war breaking out on the Korean Peninsula.

 

President Benigno Aquino III said on Friday that he was sending Del Rosario to Seoul to assess whether the threat of a North Korean nuclear attack on the United States and its allies in the region was real and if it was, how bad the situation on the Korean Peninsula was.

 

Malacañang said on Friday that it considered the situation “alert level 1,” which required the Philippine Embassy in Seoul to get in touch with the Filipinos on the peninsula and advise them to monitor developments while carrying on with their normal activities.

 

Angry about tightened United Nations (UN) sanctions and joint military exercises between South Korea and the United States, North Korea had threatened to launch nuclear attacks against the United States and its allies in the Pacific.

 

The North moved to its east coast two midrange missiles on Thursday and Friday, and mounted them on mobile launchers, sparking fears of imminent firing that would escalate tensions in the region.

 

On Friday, North Korea warned it could not guarantee the safety of diplomats after next Wednesday and asked embassies in Pyongyang to consider moving staff out of the country.

 

Part of rhetoric

 

The heads of European Union missions met yesterday to hammer out a common position. Most of their governments made it clear they had no plans to withdraw any personnel and some suggested the advisory was a ruse to fuel growing global anxiety over the crisis on the Korean Peninsula.

 

“We believe they have taken this step as part of their country’s rhetoric that the US poses a threat to them,” a British foreign office spokesperson said in London.

 

A South Korean government official agreed, saying it was part of a “propaganda war to dump responsibility for instability on the peninsula on the US.”

 

There were no signs that staff at embassies in Pyongyang were leaving and in the South, the rain-soaked capital, Seoul, was calm. Traffic moved normally through the city center, busy with Saturday shoppers.

 

Advisory disregarded

 

South Korea’s Yonhap news agency quoted a government official as saying diplomats were disregarding the suggestion they might leave the country.

 

“We don’t believe there’s any foreign mission about to leave Pyongyang,” the unidentified official was quoted as saying. “Most foreign governments view the North Korean message as a way of ratcheting up tensions on the Korean Peninsula.”

 

China’s Xinhua news agency on Friday quoted North Korea’s foreign ministry as saying the issue was no longer whether but when a war would break out.

 

A South Korean government official expressed bewilderment.

 

“It’s hard to define what is its real intention,” said the official, who asked not to be identified. “But it might have intensified these threats to strengthen the regime internally or to respond to the international community.”

 

The United Nations said its humanitarian workers remained active across North Korea. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, however, remained “deeply concerned” about tensions, heightened since the imposition of UN sanctions against the North for its third nuclear arms test in February.

 

Situation normal

 

The situation on the ground in North Korea appeared normal and calm yesterday, tourists and guides said.

 

“We’re glad to be back but we didn’t feel frightened when we were there,” said Tina Krabbe from Denmark, who spent five days in North Korea. “It didn’t feel like there was much tension in the city. We were OK, actually.”

 

A 15-year-old from Hong Kong on a school trip said: “My mum thought a war was going to break out or something like that. What we saw was all peaceful. There was absolutely no conflict… there was no unrest.”

 

Visitors said they had been able to to watch BBC news in their foreigner-only hotels.

 

Nicholas Bonner, founder of Koryo Tours, who has been organizing trips to North Korea for 20 years and visited last week, said life was “carrying on as normal.”

 

“It is certainly tense but people are going on with their daily work and tourism is continuing and people have been very hospitable,” Bonner told Agence France-Presse. “Everyone just hopes that it’ll blow over.”

 

With China’s help, it might.

 

Pressure on China

 

The New York Times reported on Friday that the administration of US President Barack Obama is pressuring China’s new President Xi Jinping to crack down on the regime in North Korea or face an increased US military presence in the region.

 

In a flurry of exchanges that included a recent phone call from Obama to Xi, administration officials said they have briefed the Chinese in detail about American plans to upgrade missile defenses and other steps to deter the increasingly belligerent threats made by North Korea’s young leader, Kim Jong-un.

 

China, which has been deeply suspicious of the American desire to reassert itself in Asia, has not protested publicly or privately, as the United States has deployed ships and warplanes to the Korean Peninsula.

 

That silence, American officials say, attests to both Beijing’s mounting frustration with the North and the recognition that its reflexive support for Pyongyang could strain its ties with Washington.

 

“The timing of this is important,” Tom Donilon, Obama’s national security adviser, said. “It will be an important early exercise between the United States and China, early in the term of Xi Jinping and early in the second term of President Obama.”

 

While administration officials cautioned that Xi has been in office for only a few weeks and that China has a history of frustrating the United States in its dealings with North Korea, Donilon said he believed that China’s position was “evolving.”

 

According to the Times, in the coming weeks, the White House will send a stream of senior officials to China to press its case, starting with Secretary of State John Kerry, who will travel to Beijing next Saturday.

 

Short and long runs

 

In the short run, the paper said, the administration wants the Chinese to be rigorous in customs inspections to interdict the flow of banned goods to North Korea.

 

But in the long run, it wants China to persuade Kim to cease his provocations and agree to negotiations on giving up his nuclear program, the paper said. With report from AFP

 

 First posted 6:50 pm | Saturday, April 6th, 2013

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  • Albert Einstien

    OK DFA…noynoying muna as USUAL…pag me SUMABOG na nukes at NAMATAY lahat Ng 40,000 na OFW …….ituturo lang naman ni pnoy si GMA…sabihin nya tinawagan ni GMA…ang NK……naka record pa…HELLO KIM..pinindot mo na ba………..je je …lol

  • Lorebea Tamparong

    WAR IS NOT IMMINENT??? ANAK NG _________ …abay sira ulo tong gobyerno natin…na alarma na nga ang America kaya nagpapapansin na ito sa North Korea sa pamamagitan ng pagpapadala ng kanilang mga malakas na sandata para lng mapigilan ang giyera….Kailan pa sasabihing imminent pag nagliliparan na ang mga missile na ng North Korea???

  • Pitbulldog

    US should always keep at its helm a real leader with real balls, not a talkative pushover who is too shallow that everybody just shrugs off whatever he says. That emboldens rogue states like Iran and NK to keep up with their ala-P-noy bullyng ways. They know that the US has a leader with balls and swinging thing all tied to his behind. Ang masama lang asa ganyang lider, sa kaguluhan susuntok yan nang nakapikit ang mga mata.

  • julieboy

    28 year old suicidal leader.

  • Noriel Bernabe

    The imminent war in the Noth Korean peninsula fueld the “Balikatan exercise” between the US goverment and the Philippine government. In history, it is no secret that the filiino soldiers fought the war of the united states while uncle sam left the philippines when it is being bomb by japanese soldiers. It seemed, that noynoy”s government is willing to fought yet, another war working in tandem with the us government. north korea’s ballistic and nuclear weapons are not to be underestimated by any country.

    Unlike Japan and the united states, we do not have missile interceptors or the capability to prevent a nuclear attack once north korea turned its eyes on the philippines.

  • Albert Einstien

    NOYNOYING & INCOMPETENCE…to the max mas gusto pa IKAMPANYA ang KAMAG-ANAK inc..na si BAM AQUINO ni PNOY kesa i-SAVE ang BUHAY ng 40,000 ofw…

    anong NOT IMMINENT?????

    MISMONG SK na ang nagsabi sa NEWS..

    NEWS…S. Korea says North’s missile launch may be imminent…

    A top South Korean security official said Sunday that North Korea may test-launch a missile this week, as the United States delayed its own missile test due to soaring tensions on the peninsula.

    Kim Jang-Soo, chief national security adviser to President Park Geun-Hye, said a test-launch or other provocation could come before or after Wednesday, the date by which the North has suggested that diplomats leave Pyongyang.

  • slim6744

    As a Filipino Citizen, serving in the U.S. NAVY during 1959, May, to 1965 May…..I have read and seen some of the weaponry the UNITED STATES has……and it is AWESOME.
    I have always been fond of reading news clips from any and all newspapers. The IRAQ war…..was just “practice”…..for us.

    Unless KIM JONG UN…..is ready to “abdicate” his throne……he will not dare do the unthinkable. We will wipe them out off the face of the earth. And…..AMERICA WILL use NUCLEAR weapons….should KIM start using his. I have no doubt about this.

    AMERICA “speaks softly…..BUT……carries a big stick”…..a VERY BIG STICK. AMERICA does not “need” BLUSTER…..to prop up it’s MILITARY MIGHT. It is there…..for all the world to see…AMERICA never “bluffed” it’s way…..in and out of WAR. It’s true, a lot of people will die…..but eventually, KIM will run all the way to CHINA to save his own skin…if he started war. “With his tail…….between his legs.”

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