Boris Johnson demands US-North Korea dialogue amid growing fear of "nuclear Sword of Damocles"

Catherine Neilan
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Boris Johnson has stressed the importance of diplomatic solutions to the growing aggression of North Korea as the world increasingly fears the "nuclear Sword of Damocles".

It is now "widely accepted" that the country is close to being able to launch a nuclear-armed ballistic missile at the continental United States, Johnson said. "The public can be forgiven for genuinely starting to wonder whether the nuclear sword of Damocles is once again held over the head of a trembling human race."

But while the US has “an absolute duty” to prepare for a possible military option in the event of an attack, the foreign secretary stressed that dialogue must be deployed first.

He backed his US counterpart Rex Tillerson for his efforts to engage with the regime - who has been at odds with president Donald Trump, who has said negotiations are "a waste of time". Trump's past rhetoric has included threats of "fire and fury like the world has never seen".

Despite Trump's many threats, Johnson insisted that "no one wants any kind of military solution to this problem. No one actively desires that."

He praised the Iran nuclear deal, another diplomatic effort condemned by Trump, as a way to avoid escalating tensions. He stressed that Iran was clearly meeting the requirements of the deal, although said Iran was "up to disruptive behaviour... sounds like a tech company but it's worse than that."

Although Iran was "up to no good", the deal had helped reduce tensions, the foreign secretary said.

“That is the model – of toughness but engagement, each reinforcing the other – that we should have at the front of our mind as we try to resolve the tensions in the Korean peninsula,” Johnson said. “It is right that Rex Tillerson has specifically opened the door to dialogue. He has tried to give some sensible reassurances to the regime, to enable them to take up this offer.”

Kim Jong-un may be attempting to "intimidate" the US, but Johnson warned that his "current course might have the opposite effect".

Johnson said Kim must consider "whether his current activities are making Pyongyang any safer", adding: "Kim and the world need to understand that when the 45th president of the US contemplates a regime led by a man who not only threatens to reduce New York to ashes, but who stands on the verge of the power to make good on his threat, I'm afraid the US president, whoever he or she will be, will have an absolute duty not only to keep safe the American people but all those people who have sheltered under the US umbrella."

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