Face-to-face with top North Korean diplomat

John Sudworth, after interviewing North Korea’s Vice-Foreign Minister Han Song-ryol, writes: Donald Trump’s recent ordering of the airstrike on a Syrian airbase has clearly rattled Pyongyang and the threat now is not simply of retaliation to an attack, but even, Mr Han suggests, to the planning of one.

“If the USA encroaches upon our sovereignty then it will provoke our immediate counter reaction and if it is planning a military attack against us, we will react with a nuclear pre-emptive strike by our own style and method.”

However, despite the posturing on both sides, the risks, most observers agree, are still limited.

For the US and its allies, war carries incalculable risks and although Washington insists that all options are on the table, it now appears to be signalling that diplomacy and toughened sanctions are the most likely way forward.

It is as yet unclear how, having failed before, those things will force this most totalitarian of states to give up its nuclear weapons.

As Vice-Foreign Minister Han made clear to me, North Korea has learned the lessons from recent history, in particular the US-led attempts at regime change in Iraq and Libya.

“If the balance of power is not there, then the outbreak of war is imminent and unavoidable.”

“If one side has nukes and the other side doesn’t, and they’re on bad terms, war will inevitably break out,” he said.

“This is the lesson shown by the reality of the countries in the Middle East, including Libya and Syria where people are suffering from great misfortune.” [Continue reading…]

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