World powers such as France, Germany, Britain and China have an obligation to stop North Korea from triggering a worldwide crisis over its nuclear weapons program, the European Union's foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, warned Thursday. As tensions between the U.S. and North Korea have risen in recent days, with both nations exchanging increasingly tough warnings about potential military strikes, Mogherini said Europe and China must work together "in times of growing tensions and geopolitical unpredictability" to avoid an outbreak of war in the Korean Peninsula.
"Everyone understands that the crisis with North Korea will have a global fallout," she said during a speech at Tsinghua University in China as part of a three-day trip to discuss trade and geopolitics. Mogherini said she brought up her concerns about North Korea during talks this week with Chinese officials in Beijing.
She said the EU and China have a "common responsibility and an interest to avoid a military escalation in the Korean Peninsula, to push for North Korea to abide by its international obligations and re-engage with the international community, and work together for a denuclearized Korean Peninsula."
Her remarks came as European Union officials are debating how to respond to North Korea's nuclear threats. The EU, a major trade partner with South Korea and Japan, increased sanctions against Pyongyang in March, including banning its members from investing in North Korea's mining, refining and chemical industries. A statement at the time called the isolated nation's nuclear and missile tests "a grave threat to international peace and security in the region and beyond." But officials in Germany and Sweden have called for maintaining diplomatic ties with Pyongyang and continuing to send humanitarian aid to North Koreans.
Mogherini said the threat from North Korea should be obvious to all. She shared during her speech how her 12-year-old daughter had recently raised questions about the potential for nuclear war in the region if the situation further deteriorated, the Associated Press reported. "If a 12-year-old in Europe understands the risks of an escalation, (in) such a faraway place from home, it is quite self-evident that we have common responsibilities," Mogherini said.
North Korea has warned in recent months that it could use its growing nuclear weapons program to attack the U.S. or South Korea. President Donald Trump has urged China, a close Pyongyang ally, to use its influence to persuade North Korea to give up its nuclear and missile programs and stop threatening other nations.
Pyongyang has so far remained undeterred. The North Korean government warned Thursday in the state-run Rodong Sinmun, the official newspaper of North Korea’s Workers’ Party, of a “super-mighty preemptive strike” against the U.S. military that "will completely and immediately wipe out not only U.S. imperialists' invasion forces in South Korea and its surrounding areas but the U.S. mainland and reduce them to ashes."
Vice President Mike Pence said Wednesday while visiting Tokyo that the U.S. would respond with an "overwhelming and effective" military strike if North Korea attempts to execute any of its threats against Washington.