Gates: North Korea Becoming Direct Threat to U.S.

BEIJING, Jan. 11, 2011 — If it con­tin­ues on its cur­rent path, North Korea could be a “direct threat” to the Unit­ed States in five years or less, Defense Sec­re­tary Robert M. Gates said here today. 

Gates has shared with Chi­nese offi­cials America’s con­cern about North Korea, and the need for sta­bil­i­ty on the penin­su­la. The sec­re­tary spoke to reporters at a round­table fol­low­ing meet­ings with Chi­nese Pres­i­dent Hu Jintao. 

Gates told reporters that North Korea is not an imme­di­ate threat to the Unit­ed States. 

“But on the oth­er hand, I don’t think it is a five-year threat,” the sec­re­tary said. “Let me be pre­cise: I think that North Korea will have devel­oped an inter­con­ti­nen­tal bal­lis­tic mis­sile with­in that time frame.” 

The sec­re­tary thanked Chi­nese offi­cials for the con­struc­tive role they have played in damp­en­ing ten­sions on the penin­su­la. “They clear­ly have played a help­ful role,” he said. 

There are two major events that have changed the sta­tus quo on the Kore­an penin­su­la, Gates said. The first is North Kore­an lead­ers con­tin­u­ing their devel­op­ment of nuclear weapons and inter­con­ti­nen­tal bal­lis­tic missiles. 

“North Korea is becom­ing a direct threat to the Unit­ed States and we have to take that into account,” the sec­re­tary said. 

The sec­ond event, he said, is “the sea change in the atti­tude of the South Kore­an pub­lic in their will­ing­ness to tol­er­ate the kind of provo­ca­tions the North Kore­ans have engaged in for many years.” 

In March last year, North Korea tor­pe­doed the South Kore­an ship Cheo­nan and killed 46 South Kore­an sailors. In Novem­ber, North Korea shelled Yeon­pyeong Island, killing two civil­ians and two South Kore­an marines. 

“Clear­ly, if there is anoth­er provo­ca­tion, there will be pres­sure on the South Kore­an gov­ern­ment to react,” Gates said. “We con­sid­er this a sit­u­a­tion of real con­cern and we think there is some urgency to pro­ceed­ing down the track of nego­ti­a­tions and engagement.” 

It’s time, Gates said, for North Korea to engage in mean­ing­ful nego­ti­a­tions with its neigh­bor to the south. 

“We don’t want to see the sit­u­a­tion that we’ve seen so many times before: which is the North Kore­ans engage in a provo­ca­tion and then every­body scram­bles to try to put ‘Hump­ty Dump­ty’ back togeth­er again,” he said. “I’ve used the phrase, ‘I don’t want to buy the same horse twice.’ 

‘I think we would like to see some con­crete actions by North Korea that shows they are seri­ous about mov­ing to a nego­ti­a­tion and engage­ment track,” Gates added. 

North Kore­an offi­cials announced that they are ready for nego­ti­a­tions with South Korea. “Rhetoric is not enough at this time,” Gates said. “I think the North Kore­ans have to demon­strate that they are seri­ous about nego­ti­a­tion and engage­ment at this point.” 

The sec­re­tary sug­gest­ed North Kore­an mora­to­ri­ums on mis­sile test­ing and nuclear test­ing for a start. “There are sev­er­al areas where they can take con­crete actions,” he said. 

The sec­re­tary leaves Chi­na for Japan tomor­row, and will vis­it South Korea lat­er this week. 

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs) 

Face­book and/or on Twit­ter

Team GlobDef

Seit 2001 ist im Internet unterwegs, um mit eigenen Analysen, interessanten Kooperationen und umfassenden Informationen für einen spannenden Überblick der Weltlage zu sorgen. war dabei die erste deutschsprachige Internetseite, die mit dem Schwerpunkt Sicherheitspolitik außerhalb von Hochschulen oder Instituten aufgetreten ist.

Alle Beiträge ansehen von Team GlobDef →