US Secretary of Defence Robert Gates said on Friday that he was 'not aware of any military moves in the North, that are out of the ordinary.' The statement follows a week of panic after Pyongyang tested a nuclear device.
AFP - US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said Friday he was not aware of any unusual troop movements in North Korea and saw no need for an increased US presence in South Korea despite soaring tensions on the peninsula.
"I am not aware of any military moves in the North, that are out of the ordinary at least," Gates said here on route to a regional security meeting in Singapore after Pyongyang tested a nuclear device on Monday.
Gates also said he saw no need to increase US troop levels in South Korea, one of Washington's key allies in the region.
"I don't think there is a need for us to reinforce our military presence in the South," he said.
The United States currently has 28,000 troops stationed on in South Korea.
Tensions between Pyongyang and Washington have risen sharply since North Korea tested a nuclear bomb, believed to be about four times more powerful than the one it detonated in 2006, and followed up by test-firing five short-range missiles.
On Thursday, South Korea and the United States put their troops on higher alert in the Korean peninsula after the North said it was ending a truce in force for half a century and warned of a possible attack.
Gates played down any military escalation to the crisis. "We have no intention of taking military action against North Korea unless they do something that requires it," he said.
Gates said that North Korea's actions had been "very provocative, aggressive, accompanied by a very aggressive rhetoric," and he issued a warning against any military moves.
"Should the North Koreans do something extremely provocative militarily, then we have the forces to deal with it," he said.
But the diplomatic fall out from the North Korean test seem ready to continue, as key regional players discuss sanctions against the hermetic Stalinist state.
At the United Nations, ambassadors of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus South Korea and Japan discussed how to censure the North for its nuclear test, but apparently without making any breakthrough.
Gates said the international community had a "range of options" that include "principally economic and diplomatic measures.
"I think at the same time it may create some opportunities for multilateral cooperation to try and persuade the North Koreans to change that behavior."
Yet "whatever responses there are," Gates said, "they need to be multilateral, preferably under the auspices of the UN but perhaps there are other means as well."
He said that China, which had often been reticent about clamping down hard on North Korea for fear of destabilizing its neighbor, had shown signs it was in agreement with the United States.
"Just based on the what the Chinese government has said publicly, they're clearly pretty unhappy about the nuclear testing in particular and they weren't very happy about the missile test either," Gates said.
Date created : 2009-05-29