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House of Commons Hansard
05 September 2017
Volume 628

  • With your permission, I should like to make a statement about the situation on the Korean peninsula.

    At noon on Sunday, local time, North Korea tested the most powerful nuclear device ever detonated in the history of the regime’s quest for an illegal arsenal. The underground explosion at a testing site only 60 miles from the Chinese border triggered an earthquake measuring up to 6.3 on the Richter scale—10 times more powerful than the tremor created by the last detonation. The regime claimed to have exploded a hydrogen bomb capable of being delivered on an intercontinental ballistic missile. We should treat that claim with scepticism, but the House must be under no illusion that this latest test marks another perilous advance in North Korea’s nuclear ambitions. In a country blighted by decades of communist economic failure, where in the 1990s hundreds of thousands of people died of starvation or were reduced to eating grass and leaves to survive, the regime has squandered its resources on building an illegal armoury of nuclear bombs. The House will want to join me in condemning a nuclear test that poses a grave threat to the security of every country in east Asia and the wider world.

    Earlier today, the North Korean ambassador was summoned to the Foreign Office to receive a formal protest. Members will recall the steady drumbeat of provocative and dangerous actions by Kim Jong-un’s regime. Last year, North Korea tested two nuclear weapons and launched 24 missiles. So far this year, the regime has fired 18 missiles, including two of intercontinental range. Indeed, three tests have taken place since the House rose in July. On Monday last week, a missile flew over Japan, causing sirens to sound on Hokkaido and forcing thousands of people to take cover. The regime has threatened to launch more missiles towards the US Pacific territory of Guam, which is home to 180,000 people and two military bases. I commend the dignity and restraint shown by South Korea and Japan, the countries which find themselves in the firing line of Pyongyang’s reckless ambitions.

    North Korea’s brazen defiance has brought universal condemnation. When the UN Security Council met in emergency session yesterday, every member, including China and Russia, denounced the latest nuclear test. Britain has been at the heart of mobilising world opinion with the aim of achieving a diplomatic solution. Last week, I spoke to my Chinese counterpart, Wang Yi, and the Japanese Foreign Minister, Taro Kono. A few hours after the nuclear test on Sunday, I spoke to the South Korean Foreign Minister, Kang Kyung-wha, and I have of course been in regular contact with Secretary Tillerson of the United States.

    During the Prime Minister’s highly successful visit to Tokyo last week, my right hon. Friend made clear our solidarity with Japan as it faces this grave threat. Just as North Korea has pursued nuclear weapons with single-minded determination, so the international community must show the same resolve in our pursuit of a diplomatic solution. We should not be diverted by arguments that equate the illegal and aggressive actions of Pyongyang with the legitimate and defensive military exercises of South Korea and the United States. North Korea has caused this crisis and the onus rests squarely on Kim Jong-un’s regime to obey international law and meet their obligations to disarm.

    All hopes for progress rest on international co-operation, and there are some encouraging signs. On 5 August, the Security Council unanimously adopted resolution 2371, including the toughest sanctions ever imposed on North Korea, banning exports of coal, seafood, iron ore and lead. If fully enforced, those new measures would cost Pyongyang about $1 billion—one third of that country’s total export earnings—reducing the resources available for nuclear weapons. We are now pressing the Security Council to pass a new resolution, as swiftly as possible, imposing further sanctions and showing the unity and determination of the international community.

    China, which accounts for 90% of North Korea’s overseas trade, has a unique ability to influence the North Korean regime, and the House can take heart from the fact that Beijing voted in favour of the latest sanctions resolution and condemned Pyongyang’s actions in the most unsparing terms. North Korea’s nuclear device was not only tested near China’s border but was detonated on the day President Xi Jinping opened a summit in Xiamen with the leaders of Russia, India, Brazil and South Africa. I call on China to use all its leverage to ensure a peaceful settlement of this grave crisis.

    Kim Jong-un claims to want security and prosperity for North Korea’s people. The only way to achieve that goal would be for North Korea to obey the UN and halt its nuclear weapon and ballistic missile programmes, disarming in a complete and verifiable manner. Britain stands alongside our allies in striving to achieve that goal, and I commend this statement to the House.

  • Before I respond to the Foreign Secretary, I am sure the whole House will join me in sending our thoughts to the families of all those killed over the summer in the terrorist attacks in Barcelona and across the world, including seven-year-old Julian Cadman. Given the subject we are discussing, it does us all well to remember that some 8 million children like Julian, under the age of 10, live on the Korean peninsula today.

    I thank the Foreign Secretary for advance sight of his statement, and I join him in unreservedly condemning North Korea for the flagrant breaches of international law that have brought us to this sorry pass. I have three questions prompted by his statement. First, although he mentioned the new sanctions regime agreed on 5 August, he will know that we are still in the early stages of enforcing the last set of sanctions agreed last November. Indeed, only 80 countries have so far submitted implementation reports on the new sanctions regime, so how does he propose to ensure that these new sanctions are implemented quickly and effectively and given time to work?

    Secondly, on the strategy outlined by the Foreign Secretary, he will have seen the article today by his predecessor, William Hague, considering whether the strategic goal will eventually shift from preventing North Korea achieving nuclear capability to accepting that that capability exists and seeking, in some form, to contain it. Does the Foreign Secretary agree with his predecessor? Has the Foreign Office planned for that scenario?

    Thirdly, given the threat to Japan and South Korea, the Foreign Secretary will be aware of the suggestion that they should now be allowed to develop their own nuclear weapons as a response to Pyongyang. Does he agree with me that that would be utter madness? Surely it cannot be a serious suggestion that the world’s response to North Korea breaching the non-proliferation treaty should be to encourage other countries to do the same. Surely our goal must be the denuclearisation of the entire region.

    Beyond the substance of the Foreign Secretary’s statement, I welcome its careful and judicious tone. After a summer of utterly reckless rhetoric from Washington and Pyongyang, we urgently need some cool heads and calm words, especially now that we have drifted from that dangerous escalation of rhetoric into the even more dangerous escalation of actions. With every ratcheting up of words and deeds, the risk grows. That escalation will lead to miscalculation and a war will begin, not by design but by default.

    Faced with that situation, we are told that all options remain under consideration and that no options have been ruled out, but if any of those options risks 10 million people in Seoul being, in the Foreign Secretary’s words, “vaporised”, or similar devastation in North Korea and Japan, we have to say that those options should be in the bin. The reality is that the only sane option is, as William Hague wrote today, dialogue and diplomacy. That means a deliberate de-escalation of rhetoric and actions, it means properly enforcing the new sanctions regime, and it means restarting the six-party talks to seek a new and lasting settlement.

    Yet we have a US ambassador to the UN who says,

    “the time for talk is over.”

    We have a President who says,

    “talking is not the answer”.

    Although in his case I would usually be inclined to agree, for the US to turn its back on diplomacy at this stage is simply irresponsible and, as its closest ally, we must be prepared to say so.

    Although we welcome the Foreign Secretary’s statement, the real test is what comes next. Will Britain be a voice of calm and reason on the world stage? Will we ally ourselves with Angela Merkel? She told the German Parliament today:

    “there can only be a peaceful and diplomatic solution”.

    If the answer is yes, and if that is the route the Government take, they will have our full support; but if they pretend that military options involving decapitation, annihilation, fire and fury belong anywhere but in the bin, and if they swear blind loyalty to Donald Trump no matter what abyss he drags us towards, they will be risking a hell of a lot more than just losing our support. I urge the Foreign Secretary and his colleagues to remain calm and judicious in their approach, to discount all so-called military solutions and to steer a course towards the only options that work: dialogue, diplomacy and peace.

  • I join the right hon. Lady in the sentiments she expresses on the victims of terror across our continent over the summer months. There is a lot in her reply with which I agree, and she is certainly right to commend a measured tone in these things. In her focus on Washington and the pronouncements of Donald Trump, it is important that we do not allow anything to distract this House from the fundamental responsibility of Pyongyang for causing this crisis. It is a great shame that there should be any suggestion of any kind of equivalence in the confrontation—I am sure she did not mean to imply that—and it is important that we do not allow that to creep into our considerations.

    The current situation is so grave because it is the first time in the history of nuclear weaponry that a non-P5 country seems to be on the brink of acquiring the ability to use an ICBM equipped with a nuclear warhead. This is a very grave situation, which explains why we are told, and we must agree, that theoretically no options are off the table, but it is also essential—the right hon. Lady is right about this—that we pursue the peaceful diplomatic resolution that we all want.

    In the history of North Korea’s attempts to acquire a nuclear weapon over the past 30 years there have been flare-ups and crises, and then they have been managed down again. We hope that in the UN, with the help of our Chinese friends and the rest of the international community, we can once again freeze this North Korean nuclear programme and manage the crisis down again. I share the emphasis on peaceful resolution that the right hon. Lady espouses.

  • I welcome the Foreign Secretary’s statement. I associate myself very much with his hopes, but I should lay out some of my concerns.

    I find myself, for the first time, talking in this House about nuclear weapons that may be used, because we are talking not about a state but about a family cult with a kingdom. This is a very different type of relationship between the leaders and the led. It is a country that is prepared to see its people starve and is perfectly happy to see them literally eat grass. We are not dealing with a rational actor. That imposes an enormous amount on Her Majesty’s Government, of course, and on partners in the region.

    I particularly welcome the Foreign Secretary’s conversation with the Chinese. What indications are there that they are prepared actually to apply the sanctions to which they have agreed? At the moment, the indications are poor. As we are one of the few nations with an embassy in Pyongyang, what assistance is our ambassador there giving to other members of the Security Council? This is a time for as much openness as possible among allies, in order to manage a very dangerous situation. Perhaps I may ask a more specific question, given the proximity of our relationship with the United States: will the Foreign Secretary mention the presence, or otherwise, of British troops serving alongside American troops in South Korea and Japan? Will he discuss whether those embeds are in any way operationally involved in the American chain, and whether or not they would be? This is a moment for the Helsinki example of the 1980s. I very much hope he can find a way for the supports to Kennedy and Khrushchev to be seen today.

  • I thank my hon. Friend for his compendious question. He rightly says that we are one of the few countries to have an embassy in Pyongyang—we are the only P3 country with an embassy there. As such, we are determined to keep that embassy going, and I hope the House will share our determination to keep it going, along with support for other P5 countries, and for other western interests in that city and in North Korea. Let me pick out his most important question; I do not wish to comment on British forces’ operational activities. I think he is really driving at the question of whether the Chinese have yet played all the cards they have in their hand. China controls 93% of North Korea’s external trade. It is a simple fact that North Korea is wholly dependent on imported oil. In the end, the Chinese do have much further to go on this. There are ways in which they can tighten the economic ligature; they can make more of a difference. The question in their minds is whether they can do that without incurring serious political convulsions within North Korea. We think there is room for further Chinese effort. We are working with our Chinese friends to persuade them to do this. To be fair to the Chinese, I must say that they have shown a much greater willingness than they have hitherto to understand the threat that North Korea poses and to take action. To that extent, the Chinese should be commended.

  • It is very apparent that the international community needs to act immediately to ensure that all sides exercise restraint and return to diplomatic dialogue. The most effective means of reducing tensions would be for the North Korean regime to immediately suspend its nuclear development and testing, and we join the majority of the international community in urging it to do just that. We also take note of the numerous calls for even tougher UN sanctions to be imposed on North Korea. However, to be most effective, increased sanctions should be accompanied by reinforced six-party talks and renewed efforts to reach a peaceful diplomatic solution. Moreover, the UK Government must use their much-vaunted “special relationship” with the United States and influence their friend Donald Trump to drastically calm his rhetoric. If that relationship is worth anything—if the UK has any sort of genuine influence in the White House—the UK Government must use it now to walk President Trump back from the unacceptable threats he has made and to bring some modicum of rationality to his dialogue. If the UK Government are unable or unwilling to make a constructive intervention, that would make a mockery of the so-called “special relationship” and of the much-vaunted “global Britain”.

    Finally, this crisis is a stark reminder of the danger posed by nuclear weapons and must be harnessed to intensify efforts towards multilateral disarmament and achieving global zero. The recent UN treaty on the prohibition of nuclear weapons was a major achievement. Will the UK Government therefore take this opportunity to demonstrate real leadership on the international stage, and demonstrate that to all of us, by choosing to become the first nuclear-armed state to sign the UN treaty and to commit to legally binding nuclear disarmament? It is worth reiterating that the people of Scotland live side by side with nuclear weapons every day. On their behalf, my colleagues and I in the Scottish National party urge the UK Government to sign up to the UN treaty without delay.

  • On the American point, let me just say that it is vital that we keep the focus of our attention on Pyongyang’s primacy of responsibility for causing this crisis; anything else is a distraction. As for nuclear disarmament, let me make a comment I might direct to those on the Opposition Benches: surely to goodness this crisis shows the folly of unilateral nuclear disarmament. That is one of their policies and it would open up this country and others to nuclear blackmail from North Korea.

  • It is more than 10 years since the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea tested its first nuclear weapon, and I am afraid that we have been paying the price for being caught like rabbits in the headlights; every time the DPRK has advanced its technology, we have somehow wished it was not happening and turned the other way. So we are where we are now, and I fully understand the US reluctance to reassemble the six-party talks, because previous such talks have been so thwarted by the DPRK. In all fairness, I must say that there have been some successes during those talks. If we look at the other options—containment; living with the DPRK as a de facto nuclear-armed state; or military action—we see that we owe it to the whole world to try to reassemble the six-party talks. We can empty-chair the DPRK if it does not turn up, but we must show that we are making one last huge push before other options are pursued.

  • My right hon. Friend is absolutely right to say that we are paying the price for previous complacency on this question. He is also absolutely right to say that we have had success in the past; we have shown that diplomacy and engagement can make a difference. We intend to pursue that path.

  • I urge the Foreign Secretary to carry on that quiet diplomacy. This must be one of the most frightening times in world history, as we really could be in a situation where a country such as North Korea would launch a missile. I want quiet diplomacy, but may I get the message across to the Foreign Secretary that that means working assiduously with all our allies? Yes, we must have serious conversations with the United States—that is unavoidable —but we must also work with all our friends and allies in Europe, particularly the Germans, the French and others, and particularly with NATO. We have heard very little about NATO in the recent days and weeks.

  • I hope the hon. Gentleman will be reassured to learn that I had long conversations last night with our Swedish friends—as he knows, they also have an embassy in Pyongyang—in addition to various other European colleagues.

  • May I urge the Foreign Secretary to cheer up a bit and to cast his mind back 53 years to 1964, when red China, led by Mao Tse Tung, who was every bit as much of a murderous maniac as the current leader of North Korea is, was about to acquire nuclear weapons? May I ask my right hon. Friend to face up to a couple of hard facts? First, he is clearly right to say that North Korea is determined on this path. Secondly, he is clearly right to say that China could stop it, but probably will not do so. Thirdly, if North Korea is determined to get nuclear weapons, it will get them and, what is more, we will deter it from using them. That is what happened with China, which we are now looking at as our friends, when it used to be led by exactly the same sort of regime.

  • I, of course, hugely admire the sangfroid of my right hon. Friend and his natural optimism. I hope he will forgive me if I, none the less, continue with what I think is the settled view of this House: that we should pursue all diplomatic and peaceful means available to us to try to prevent North Korea from acquiring nuclear weapons.

  • I have been talking to my many Korean constituents. May I tell the Foreign Secretary how alarmed they are and how worried they are for their families back in Korea and for their country? In rightly emphasising the case for a diplomatic solution, does he feel that the actions of President Trump are encouraging Beijing to go further, or are there other recommendations and approaches he would make to the White House to encourage China to do what only China can do?

  • As it happens, I think it is important that the United States says, as it does at the moment, that all options are on the table, but it is clearly the overwhelming desire of the US Administration to get a peaceful resolution to this crisis. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will reassure his constituents in south London—I remember them well from when I used to represent them myself—that we are doing everything we can to protect South Korea.

  • I commend the tone of the Foreign Secretary’s statement, and I commend to him a strategy of trying to ensure that Pyongyang pays an ongoing price for this gross breach of the non-proliferation treaty. If there is a war option, it should be pretty clear that it must be North Korea that starts it.

  • I absolutely accept that point; the alternative is deeply undesirable, and not one that I think would commend itself to anybody in this House.

  • It is clear not only that North Korea has developed much of its missile and nuclear capacity domestically, but that the country has received both physical and intellectual external assistance for its missile and nuclear programmes. Is the Foreign Secretary convinced that we have done all we can to intercept such help and to prevent North Korea from receiving further assistance?

  • We need to enforce the existing sanctions, as well as put new pressure on North Korea. There is currently an investigation into exactly how the country has managed to make this leap in technological ability. We are looking at the possible role that may have been played, inadvertently or otherwise, by some current and former nuclear states.

  • It is clear that the House hopes overwhelmingly for a diplomatic solution to the crisis, but the Foreign Secretary said that we stand by our allies; have we received any requests for potential military support from South Korea, Japan or, indeed, the United States? If so, what has been our response?

  • We have received no such requests so far, and our intention is to try to avoid the circumstances in which they could be made.

  • It is a great pity that some Opposition Members have chosen this occasion to attack the President of the United States, rather than those who caused the current crisis: the North Koreans.

    The effect of sanctions is likely to be limited because we are dealing with a deranged, selfish leader who cares little about the suffering in his own country. Will the Secretary of State tell us what assessment has been made of who is helping the North Koreans to develop their bombs and missiles? What steps will we take against those countries if it is shown that they are helping this tyrant in his aspiration to have the means to strike other countries?

  • The hon. Gentleman asks an extremely good question. As I indicated in my answer a moment ago, we are looking into that very question. We have our suspicions, but as yet we have no hard information.

  • The financial burden of implementing UN resolution 2371 will largely fall on China. What proposals are there, from our friends elsewhere and from within our country, to help China to meet those costs? It is easy for us to say, “They won’t do it,” but surely we can do something to say, “If you take that step, we will do something to help you.”

  • I understand my hon. Friend’s good and interesting point. At the moment we think that the cost to China is pretty minimal in comparison with the impact on North Korea, but if that is raised by our Chinese friends, we will certainly consider it.

  • The Foreign Secretary may be aware that I am due to visit South Korea in the near future, with NATO allies. Who does he see as having the major responsibility for dealing with the crisis—is it America, the United Nations, or alliances from around the world? Who will spearhead the diplomatic effort, and will he give us a clear idea of where we sit in that?

  • I wish the hon. Lady every success in her trip to South Korea. When she goes there, I am sure she will have a clear feeling of the imminence of the threat posed by North Korea, not only with nuclear weapons but with conventional weapons. The answer to her question is simple: the two most important actors outside the Korean peninsula are of course China and the US. But the UK can play an important role in trying to bridge the gap between them and unite the international community around a common position.

  • The current Chinese ambassador to the Court of St James’s, Liu Xiaoming, has often made it clear that in his previous role as ambassador to Pyongyang the North Koreans were incredibly difficult to work with on almost everything. Given the timing of North Korea’s latest missile test, which could scarcely have been less convenient for Xi Jinping, does my right hon. Friend really believe that the Chinese have been able to exercise any restraint on Kim Jong-un so far and will be able to do so in future?

  • My hon. Friend speaks with great experience of the region and is entirely right in his analysis of the timing of the test and the effect it was meant to have on Xi Jinping and the Chinese leadership. That does not mean, though, that we should discount the Chinese ability to affect events in North Korea and China’s potential to do more.

  • In the current situation, China has enormous power in the form of the 500,000 tonnes of crude oil that it exports to North Korea every year. What further steps can the Foreign Secretary take to encourage China to exercise that enormous power?

  • The best thing we can do is to continue our work with the UN Security Council, at which the Chinese have so far been absolutely in step with us. The hon. Gentleman is right to focus on oil, which we think is the next opportunity.

  • Do we believe that Kim Jong-un is a rational actor? Perhaps more importantly, does China believe he is?

  • I do not think we can simply assume he is totally irrational. We have to hope that he is willing to take the interests of his people—the suffering people of North Korea—into account and that in the end he is willing to protect their interests. We have to ascribe some kind of rationality and humanity to him in the end.

  • What lessons can be learned from the difficult negotiations with Iran, a country that was also described as being part of the axis of evil by President Bush some years ago?

  • That is a wonderful illustration of the vital importance of maintaining the joint comprehensive plan of action—the deal to restrict the development of Iran’s nuclear weapons that, as everybody knows, has been the subject of some controversy in Washington and that has been deprecated by some members of Congress. The value of coming to such arrangements with potential nuclear powers is evident.

  • Following on from that point, North Korea and Iran signed an agreement on science and technology co-operation in 2012. The Foreign Secretary said that certain countries are suspected of supporting North Korea’s weapons programmes; will he clarify whether Iran is one of those countries? When will the investigations into those suspicions be concluded so that everyone knows who those countries are and what action will be taken against them?

  • Tempted though I am, I do not think I can comment on that otherwise excellent question.

  • The regime in Pyongyang is most certainly unpalatable, but it is important to remember that it may not be totally irrational. The Foreign Secretary’s alignment of Beijing’s policy with our own approach to the matter is commendable; is it worth considering what kind of security guarantees can be offered to North Korea? Trying to get a diplomatic solution means we have to allow for the possibility that there are some people in North Korea who take a rational view of their own future.

  • I understand what the hon. Gentleman is driving at, but we cannot get into the business of offering security guarantees to the North Korean regime when it is currently threatening to destroy New York and other cities and countries around the world.

  • Does my right hon. Friend agree that this dramatic rise in the threat should send a powerful message to our NATO allies to meet their spending commitments?

  • Absolutely. Spot on.

  • The nuclear escalation by North Korea is appalling and terrifying, especially to a generation that is too young to have lived through the fear of the cold war. When China is a voice of calm and even Russia is more measured than the US, it speaks volumes about the state of global diplomacy. I disagree with the Government’s cosying up to Donald Trump, but if there is to be any value in those actions, surely the Foreign Secretary should use his influence to make President Donald Trump use his phone for talking instead of sending inflammatory tweets into what is a fragile and precarious situation.

  • I really must disagree powerfully with the hon. Lady’s assertion that somehow this crisis has been whipped up by the Americans, the President or the White House when, if we look at the history not just over the past year, but over the past 10 or 30 years, we will see that this has been a movement towards the acquisition of thermonuclear weapons by a rogue state. We have now come to a point where we have to use all the diplomatic and peaceful means at our disposal to freeze that nuclear programme and to ensure a peaceful solution.

  • Does the Foreign Secretary agree that Britain, with its close and established ties with the United States and its strengthened ties with Japan, is in a unique position to bring together regional players to achieve the sort of regional solution that we need in order to avoid the regional instability that none of us in this House wants to see?

  • My hon. Friend is absolutely right. That was why the Prime Minister’s trip to Japan was so timely and why her interventions there were so warmly welcomed not just by our Japanese friends, but by the South Koreans and many others. As my right hon. Friend the Defence Secretary will confirm, the United Kingdom is committed to the security and stability of east Asia as much as it is to Europe.

  • The most likely start of a nuclear war will come by accident, by technical failure or by human error. The danger of that is greatly increased as world tension multiplies. Is it not true that, while there is no equivalence in this and we should pay credit to China for keeping the lid on paranoid regimes in North Korea for 60 years, the new element has been an American President who has managed to inflame every frozen conflict that he has addressed? Should it not be right that we take a British diplomatic, experienced view of this, with cooler heads, rather than follow the example of the apprentice President?

  • The new element is the increasing desire of the North Korean regime illegally to test nuclear weapons and threaten its neighbours and those further afield, and the acquisition of what looks like an intercontinental ballistic missile with what could be a hydrogen bomb capability. That is the new element, which requires international co-ordination to defeat.

  • North Korea’s regime is partly financed by money laundered through Chinese regional banks and companies. In the US, the Treasury Department has taken decisive action to cut off those organisations—even those that are Chinese—from the financial system, and prosecutions have been launched in the past few days. Will the UK Government do exactly the same to those organisations operating out of the City of London?

  • We are certainly in favour of ensuring that all the sanctions that are currently in place are fully applied. If it is necessary to take action in respect of the City of London, we certainly shall do so.

  • As the Foreign Secretary is on the record as saying that all options are on the table, may I press him a little bit more tonight to confirm that he has taken off the table any kind of UK support for military action? Will he give Government support to efforts that are already beginning to happen—I am talking about a longer-term process towards a phased and comprehensive approach to a north-east Asian nuclear weapons-free zone, which has cross-party support in Japan and South Korea?

  • I am grateful for the opportunity to point out that that is an entirely hypothetical question. I am very impressed by the mood of moderation in the House today. Everybody really wants a peaceful diplomatic solution, and that is what we are working towards.

  • Is it not a reality that further sanctions are unlikely to persuade this depraved regime to give up its illegal nuclear programme, even though it is beggaring its people in the process? Has the time not come to press again for six-party talks to include the North Korean regime if necessary?

  • My hon. Friend is very thoughtful on these matters. What we want is to freeze the North Korean nuclear programme, and diplomatic means are the best way forward.

  • Sanctions imposed by the UN on North Korea, especially those of the past year, are the strongest yet. Can the Secretary of State tell us what steps the Government are taking to ensure that all those sanctions are fully implemented and, crucially, enforced by all UN member states?

  • We have raised that at the UN repeatedly over the past few weeks, as the hon. Lady would expect us to do.

  • I welcome the Foreign Secretary’s statement and the focus on seeking a peaceful diplomatic solution. Will he reassure me that we have also made it clear to our allies in the region that if they were the subject of an unprovoked military attack by North Korea, they would not face it alone?

  • As my hon. Friend knows, we are doing everything we can to make sure that that appalling possibility does not take place. That is our aim. As he will also know, much of the region—Japan and South Korea—is protected by an American guarantee. The new element in this equation is that North America could now itself be the victim of an ICBM from North Korea. That is why the situation is now so grave, and why we must make sure that we terminate this programme where it is.

  • I was glad to see the emphasis on diplomacy in the Secretary of State’s statement today and to hear him say in media comments yesterday that there is no easy military solution. Considering that the North Korean regime above all craves security guarantees and normalised economic and diplomatic relations, does he agree that those are the key bargaining chips that might bring the regime back to the negotiating table with other partners to de-escalate this crisis?

  • I do. The hon. Gentleman has caught my sentiments exactly.

  • I do agree that this crisis has been created by the missile tests and thermonuclear test last week by the North Korean regime, which clearly is not acting like a rational nation state. I thank the Foreign Secretary for his approach and for using the UN Security Council to put pressure on China and to restart the six-nations talks. However, on Sunday, the President of the United States made a public statement on Twitter, which is his wont, saying:

    “South Korea is finding, as I have told them, that their talk of appeasement with North Korea will not work, they only understand one thing!”

    Is that our approach? Are we saying that the approach of regional nations such as South Korea amounts to appeasement? The “one thing” he mentions is clearly military action. Are we pressing all the other options on the United States?

  • It is not so much that we are pressing all the options on the United States—though of course we are—but that those are the options that the United States itself massively prefers and wants to bring about.

  • Korea—I speak of it as a nation and not as two divided political states—is at a crossroads in its political, social and economic future. It is a future that may well impact on the very fabric of the People’s Republic of China, and China knows that only too well. I was glad to hear the Foreign Secretary mention China in such friendly tones; it was extremely welcome. In playing its part in defending peace, I hope that the Government do so by asking some practicalities of the Government of the United States as well as of the People’s Republic of China. Do they recognise, for instance, that the Korean nation and the world require the United States and China to work in partnership and use their leverage? Is it not the case that we require mutually assured restraint, as espoused by the sociologist Amitai Etzioni, to bring about a full and comprehensive peace in Korea?

  • I am delighted to hear Amitai Etzioni quoted on the subject of Korea. The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right to focus on the partnership and potential of the relationship between the US and China. They hold the key to the question between them, but, as I say, where there are differences it can be our task to try to help to bridge the gap, then unite the rest of the international community on a common position.