Another war on the Korean Peninsula is unacceptable, Republic of Korea Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha said on Monday in Washington, as a White House spokeswoman denied the United States had declared war on Pyongyang.
"There cannot be another war in the region; there cannot be another outbreak of war on the Korean Peninsula," Kang told a discussion at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a think tank in Washington.
"The consequences would be devastating not just for the Korean Peninsula but for Northeast Asia," she said at the event co-sponsored by the CSIS and the Asian Institute for Policy Studies.
Just a few blocks away from the CSIS, the White House said Monday afternoon that the United States has not declared war on the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, in response to remarks of the DPRK's top diplomat that a weekend tweet by US President Donald Trump was a "declaration of war". "Last weekend, Trump claimed that our leadership wouldn't be around much longer. He declared a war on our country," Ri Yong-ho, the DPRK foreign minister, said earlier in New York.
"The whole world should clearly remember it was the US who first declared war on our country," Ri said, referring to Trump's tweet message on Saturday.
The DPRK foreign minister also said that the DPRK reserved the right to take countermeasures, including shooting down US bombers even if they are not in its air space.
"We have not declared war on North Korea and frankly the suggestion of that is absurd," White House spokesperson Sarah Sanders told a regular briefing in Washington. "Our goal is still the same. We continue to seek the peaceful denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula."
China's Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said the Chinese side is really concerned about the current situation on the Korean Peninsula.
"We hope that all relevant parties should exercise restraint instead of continuing provocating each other and seek the way out for the peaceful settlement of the issue instead of finding the outlet to let off the steam," Lu told a news briefing on Monday.
Kang, the South Korean foreign minister, said the call for diplomacy is the clear wish of the public both in South Korea and the US, as recent polls indicate.
"Sanctions and pressure against North Korea are a diplomatic tool; they are not meant to collapse or bring down North Korea, but to bring it to the negotiation table for serious denuclearization talks," she said.
Kang added that sanctions and pressure are necessary but not enough. "They must be accompanied by strong deterrent capabilities."
But Kang added that "the whole international community and we cannot put at risk the safety and security of our citizens," who have worked for seven decades to build a "model democracy and market economy from the total destruction of war".
Kang said it is imperative for Seoul and Washington to manage the situation with "astuteness and steadfastness", to prevent escalation of tension or any accidental military crashes in the region, which can spiral out of control.
Madeleine K. Albright, Chair of the Albright Stonebridge Group and former US secretary of state, underlined the need to cool down the situation.
"The other part that I think is truly important is to kind of lower the temperature," she told the panel at the CSIS.
"Because I'm kind of concerned about accidents of some kind that might happen."