Kerry warns N. Korea of fresh sanctions

By Park Chan-kyong, AFP

SEOUL–U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry warned North Korea Monday of possible fresh sanctions as he slammed Kim Jong Un’s ��egregious�� leadership with its reliance on reckless provocation and ��grotesque�� executions. Speaking in the South Korean capital Seoul, Kerry said the recent test of a new submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) showed that North Korea had no genuine interest in engaging with the international community. ��Instead, it continues to pursue nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles, it continues to break promises and make threats, and it continues to show flagrant disregard for international laws,�� he told a joint press conference with South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byong-se. ��That is why it is important for us to ramp up international pressure for North Korea to change its behavior,�� he added, adding that the U.S. and China were discussing methods for ��boosting sanctions and other things.�� The impoverished but nuclear-armed state is already heavily sanctioned following a series of nuclear and missile tests staged in violation of U.N. resolutions. Just over a week ago the North said it had successfully test-fired an SLBM, defying a U.N. ban on its use or testing of ballistic missile technology. A fully developed SLBM capability would take the North Korean nuclear threat to a new level, allowing deployment far beyond the Korean peninsula and the potential to retaliate in the event of a nuclear attack. ‘Disregard for human rights’

In a scathing attack on Kim Jong Un, Kerry said his leadership was one of the most ��egregious displays … anywhere on the planet�� of reckless disregard for human rights. He specifically cited ��stories of grotesque, grisly, horrendous public displays of executions�� carried out on a personal whim by Kim �X often against those closest to him. South Korea’s intelligence agency reported last week that North Korea’s defense minister, Hyon Yong Chol, had been purged and most likely executed for insubordination and dozing off during a formal military rally. The agency said it had unverified reports that the execution had been carried out at close range with a high-caliber anti-aircraft gun. A previous agency report said Kim had ordered the execution of 15 other senior officials so far this year. Kerry said it was ��absolutely critical�� for the international community to keep shedding light on human rights violations, after a U.N. report last year detailed widespread abuses and recommended Pyongyang be referred to the International Criminal Court in The Hague. ��If their horrific conduct continues, it’s hard to see how that referral to the criminal court would not take place,�� Kerry said. Alliance ‘stronger than ever’

Kerry, who held talks earlier in the morning with President Park Geun-hye, insisted that the U.S.-South Korea military alliance was ��stronger than ever�� in the face of the North’s belligerence. South Korea hosts a permanent deployment of almost 30,000 U.S. troops and holds annual joint exercises that rehearse numerous conflict scenarios with the North. A recent report by U.S. researchers warned that North Korea appeared poised to expand its nuclear program over the next five years and, in a worst-case scenario, could possess 100 atomic weapons by 2020. It carried out nuclear tests in 2006, 2009 and 2013. Cyberattacks