S. Korean Minister in D.C.: N. Korea Nuclear Program Poised to Threaten 'U.S. and Beyond'

WASHINGTON -- Secretary of State John Kerry said in a meeting here with South Korean counterparts on Wednesday that "there should be no doubt that the United States will do whatever is necessary to defend ourselves and to honor the security commitments that we have made to allies" after North Korea's latest nuclear test and repeated ballistic missile tests in violation of UN Security Council resolutions.

That includes deploying "as soon as possible" a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) battery to South Korea.

"We need to ensure, working together, that the DPRK pays a price for its dangerous actions, even – and I want to emphasize this – even as we work for the peaceful denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula," Kerry said in joint remarks with Defense Secretary Ashton Carter, South Korean Minister of Foreign Affairs Yun Byung-se, and South Korean Minister of National Defense Han Min-koo.

Carter said "the recent dramatic increase in North Korean nuclear tests and ballistic missile launches remind us of the grave threat it poses to our collective security."

"In light of these provocative acts, our combined defense posture must be robust and our deterrence must be credible," he added, including "our commitment to provide extended deterrence guaranteed by the full spectrum of U.S. defense capabilities."

"Make no mistake, any attack on America or our allies will not only be defeated, but also any use of nuclear weapons will be met with an overwhelming and effective response."

The Defense secretary noted that "growing trilateral cooperation" among South Korea, Japan and the U.S. "is helping us all to coordinate our response to North Korean provocations."

Carter and Han are meeting today in a Security Consultative Meeting.

The South Korea defense minister stressed that North Korea "has been advancing its nuclear missile capabilities, publicly threatening the ROK and the U.S., as well as the international community as a whole."

"Under such a grave security environment, it is more timely than ever for our two nations’ foreign affairs and defense ministers to discuss actions against the North and its threat, including the issue of its denuclearization, as well as a way forward for our alliance," Han said.

"This year alone, North Korea pressed ahead with two nuclear tests and explicitly threatened our two nations and the international community by blathering on about its nuclear weaponization and striking the continental U.S. This mounting threat of North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs, as was stated by President Park Geun-hye, is like a dagger against our throats, a pressing issue that must be urgently resolved. If North Korea’s threats continue unabated, as now, it will pose a direct and real threat not only on the Korean Peninsula but also to the U.S. and beyond. "

South Korea's foreign minister called Pyongyang's provocations the "gravest nuclear missile threat ever since the armistice."

"Despite our countless endeavors to resolve the North Korean nuclear problem over the past two decades, Pyongyang has never relented in its pursuit of a nuclear program. This year alone, which happens to be the 10th year since its first nuclear test, the North conducted two nuclear tests, fired 23 ballistic missiles, and even reprocessed plutonium. This means not only that the North flagrantly violated the toughest ever resolution, 2270 and others, at least 26 times, but also that it is nearing the final stage of nuclear weaponization," Yun told reporters.

"We must update our comprehensive response strategy to deter the threat of North Korea. Like the two blades of scissors, diplomatic pressure and military deterrence must be in full sync. All tools in our toolkit, including the ones from the so-called DIME – that is diplomatic pressures, information, military measures, and economic sanctions – must be fully mobilized to this end," he stressed.

Yun also emphasized that allies must "continuously demonstrate our capabilities and means for invaluable deterrence with our commitments and actions so that Pyongyang can feel the panic under their skins."