Baird treating North Korean rhetoric 'tremendously seriously'
Published Thursday, April 11, 2013 10:37AM EDT
Last Updated Thursday, April 11, 2013 11:22PM EDT
Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird joined his G8 counterparts Thursday in condemning North Korea's aggressive language and warning the world is watching the nation closely following its recent threats.
On Thursday, North Korea ratcheted up the rhetoric, claiming it had "powerful striking means" at its disposal and was prepared to launch a missile whenever necessary. It is believed the reclusive nation is ramping up for a medium-range missile test during the country's upcoming national celebration.
"Obviously when you're dealing with nuclear arms and testing of nuclear arms in the context of such provocative rhetoric I think we should take their comments very seriously," Baird said, speaking to reporters in a conference call.
While some have taken the view that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is simply flexing his muscles in order to build support at home, Baird said the stakes are too high to make assumptions about Pyongyang's intentions.
"Given the fact that in recent years we've seen North Korea attack and sink a South Korean naval vessel, killing dozens, given we've seen their attacks on South Korean territory in which there were fatalities, we treat their rhetoric tremendously seriously," he said.
Baird's comments were in step with those of British Foreign Secretary William Hague, who spoke Thursday following G8 meetings in London. Baird is also in London.
Hague said the foreign ministers "committed ourselves to take further significant measures" if North Korea were to conduct another nuclear test.
Pyongyang launched a long-range rocket in December and conducted an underground nuclear test in February, prompting the United Nations Security Council to impose sanctions on Pyongyang restricting trade goods, imports and exports, and financial transactions.
In a communique following their meeting in London, the foreign ministers said Pyongyang's aggressive stance will only isolate the nation. They urged North Korea to refrain from "further provocative acts" and to rejoin discussions about abandoning their nuclear programs.
"G8 foreign ministers condemned in the strongest possible terms the continued development of its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs by the Democratic People's Republic of Korea," the communique stated.
In his comments Thursday, Baird called on China to join the discussion and "use the influence it has to combat this challenge," noting that Beijing was absent from the talks in London.
He said a nuclear attack by Pyongyang would destabilize the region and have a profound effect on China and the rest of the world.
The communique added that ministers are concerned about Pyongyang's plans to re-open its Yongyon nuclear facility.
The two-day talks focused on North Korea and the civil war in Syria.
Angelina Jolie, a UN special envoy for refugees, added momentum to the meeting, discussing efforts to prevent sexual violence in war. She has teamed up with Hague on the initiative.
Along with the UN special representative on sexual violence in conflict, Zanab Bangora, they announced G8 ministers had pledged $36 million in additional funding to fight sexual violence in conflict.
Hague called the issue "the slave trade of our generation" and said ministers also agreed to declare that rape and serious sexual violence in conflict constitute war crimes and grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions.
Jolie called the stance long overdue and said the international political will to combat sexual violence has been "sorely lacking."
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