Tensions remain high on the Korean peninsula almost exactly 60 years after the armistice agreement that quieted the embattled border. It remains unclear whether the Kim Jong Un regime will follow through on its war rhetoric, or whether it even can. Experts agree a miscommunication could be all it takes to ignite Korean War II.
While speaking at a press conference Friday, South Korea's foreign minister said a "special mechanism" exists between its allies, including the U.S., and China, historically a supporter of the North Korean regime.
This follows North Korean promises that it would cut all lines of communication with its neighbors to the south.
"Between Korea, the U.S. and China, we have a special mechanism to discuss the North Korean situation," said Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se, while speaking with Secretary of State John Kerry during his visit to Seoul. "The reaction has been quite good, and so in the near future, I believe that we will be able to have a more concrete mechanism."
New details emerged in a congressional hearing on Wednesday that the Defense Intelligence Agency believes the North Koreans likely have a miniaturized nuclear missile, though its reliability is uncertain.
"There is some kind of device," said Kerry, adding that these devices have not yet been fully tested. "But that is very different from miniaturization and delivery from tested delivery and other things."
"Does it get you closer to a line that is dangerous?" he added. "Yes. And that is precisely why we are standing here together at this moment, talking about the need to move in a better and different direction."
He reiterated statements from the Pentagon and the Office of the Director of National Security Thursday night, clarifying the information released at a Thursday congressional hearing with Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel.
"It would be inaccurate to suggest that the North Korean regime has fully developed and tested the kinds of nuclear weapons referenced in the passage," the statements read. DNI added "North Korea has not yet demonstrated the full range of capabilities necessary for a nuclear armed missile."
"We believe, regarding the nuclear capability of North Korea, it's quite high," said Yun. "Nevertheless, at the current time right now, their militarization, diversification, we believe that in that way they probably need to develop a bit further."
Kerry said launching any kind of missile would be a "huge mistake" for North Korea, "because it will further isolate the country and further isolate its people who, frankly, are desperate for food, not missile launches, for people who are desperate for opportunity, not a leader who wants to flex his muscles in this manner."
The secretary continued his calls for dialogue, but said the U.S. would not accept anything except an agreement for North Korea to denuclearize.
The chief diplomats' comments came hours before other remarks on Korea from a different leader. Hagel gave an address in the Pentagon auditorium on Friday afternoon marking President Barack Obama's decision to bestow the medal of honor to a Korean War veteran, Captain Emil J. Kapaun. The chaplain died in a Chinese prison camp after continued efforts to care for his fellow inmates.
Hagel referenced the current strife which has seized up efforts to recover the remains of Korean War soldiers from North Korea.
"Last year a planned resumption of recovery missions in North Korea was suspended because of provocative actions by that nation's government," he said. "This is a humanitarian mission, and we look forward to the day when conditions permit these operations in North Korea to resume. Today we remain committed to the fullest possible accounting for our missing personnel and bringing closure to their families."
Hagel described Kapaun's efforts that would earn him posthumously the nation's highest award for valor:
¨Father Kapaun was deployed to Korea in July 1950. He was as practical as he was spiritual. His makeshift altar, set up on the hood of a jeep, comforted men of all faiths. Between sermons and baptisms, he wrote letters home on behalf of the wounded and helped dig latrines. His compassion and hard work won over even the most hardened infantrymen.
Kapaun was a regular on the front lines – darting through the gunfire to save those he could and offering comfort to those he could not. Kapaun repeatedly dismissed calls to retreat and instead set up a makeshift clinic just behind the front lines – until he was captured by the enemy.
Father Kapaun would die as a prisoner of war, but not before he served as a leader to thousands of men trapped along with him. Men of all faiths and men of no faith turned to him for strength and for survival – he counseled them all. Father Kapaun stole food, built pots and pans from scrap tin, and gave away bits of clothes – all simply to keep his men alive. Gradually his health deteriorated, but he continued to offer counsel to his fellow soldiers. Long after his death, Father Kapaun still inspired the men around him to hold out hope for a better life. Many of the POWs held captive with him credit Kapaun with keeping them alive. We are honored to have some of these men and their families here with us today.¨