* Kerry says any North Korea missile launch a "huge mistake"
* Says shrill rhetoric is unacceptable
* Tells China to put "teeth" in policies to rein in North
* North says will never abandon nuclear arms
By Arshad Mohammed and Jack Kim
SEOUL, April 12 U.S. Secretary of State John
Kerry warned North Korea on Friday it would be a "huge mistake"
to launch a medium-range missile and said the United States
would never accept the reclusive country as a nuclear power.
Addressing reporters after talks with South Korea's
president and leaders of the 28,000-strong U.S. military
contingent in the country, Kerry also said it was up to China,
North Korea's sole major ally, to "put some teeth" in efforts to
press Pyongyang to abandon its nuclear ambitions.
Kerry, like other U.S. officials, played down an assessment
from the Pentagon's intelligence agency that the North already
had a nuclear missile capacity.
The United States, he said, wanted to resume talks about
North Korea's earlier pledges to halt its nuclear programme, but
would defend its allies in the region if necessary.
North Korea has repeatedly said it will not abandon nuclear
weapons which it said on Friday were its "treasured" guarantor
Kerry's visit coincided with preparations for Monday's
anniversary of North Korean state founder Kim Il-Sung's birth
date, a possible pretext for a show of strength, with
speculation focusing on a possible new missile launch.
Kerry, who flies to China on Saturday and to Japan on
Sunday, said that if North Korea's 30-year-old leader, Kim
Jong-un, proceeded with a launch, "he will be choosing,
willfully, to ignore the entire international community".
"I would say ahead of time that it is a huge mistake for him
to choose to do that because it will further isolate his country
and further isolate his people, who frankly are desperate for
food, not missile launches."
The North has issued weeks of shrill threats of an impending
war following the imposition of U.N. sanctions in response to
its third nuclear test in February. Kerry said the threats were
"simply unacceptable" by any standard.
"We are all united in the fact that North Korea will not be
accepted as a nuclear power," he said.
Kerry later told U.S. businessmen in Seoul that China, as an
advocate of denuclearisation, was in a position to press for a
change in the North's policy.
"The reality is that if your policy is denuclearization and
it is theirs as it is ours, as it is everybody's except the
North at this moment... if that's your policy, you've got to put
some teeth into it," he told the gathering.
But North Korea showed little inclination for further talks.
Rodong Sinmun, the mouthpiece of the ruling Workers' Party,
said Pyongyang would never abandon its nuclear programme.
"The DPRK will hold tighter the treasured sword, nuclear
weapons," it said, referring to the country by its official
name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.
North Korean state television showed footage of newscasts
from other countries depicting the trajectory a North Korean
missile launch might take.
It also showed preparations for the Kim Il-Sung birthday
festivities, including floral tributes, and a stadium of
thousands of schoolchildren of the Korean Children's Union, each
wearing a red scarf and saluting and marching in unison.
Speculation has mounted of an impending medium-range missile
test launch in the North after reports in South Korea and the
United States that as many as five medium-range missiles have
been moved into position on the country's east coast.
Officials in both countries believe the North is preparing
to test-launch a Musudan missile, whose range of 3,500 km (2,100
miles) or more would put Japan within striking distance and may
threaten the island of Guam, which houses U.S. military bases.
The North has been angry about annual military drills
between U.S. and South Korean forces, describing them as a
"hostile" act. The United States dispatched B52 and B2 stealth
bombers from their bases to take part.
Hours before Kerry's arrival, a U.S. lawmaker quoted a
report by the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency, one of the 17
bodies that make up the U.S. intelligence community, as saying
it had "moderate confidence" that North Korea had developed a
nuclear bomb that could be fitted on a ballistic missile.
But Kerry poured cold water on the report said it was
"inaccurate to suggest that the DPRK has fully tested, developed
capabilities" as set down in the document.
South Korea's Defence Ministry said it did not believe North
Korea could mount a nuclear warhead on a missile.
Asked about the U.S. report, Chinese Foreign Ministry
spokesman Hong Lei said Beijing sought "peace and stability on
the Korean peninsula and (was) pushing for its denuclearisation
via talks and consultations. No matter what changes there are in
the situation, we will uphold this direction."
A U.S. official had earlier suggested that Washington's
greatest concern was the possibility of unexpected developments
linked to Kim Jong-un's "youth and inexperience". Asked if war
seemed imminent, he replied: "Not at all."
South Korean President Park Geun-hye, meeting officials from
her ruling Saenuri Party before her talks with Kerry, struck a
conciliatory note by suggesting Seoul should at least listen to
what North Korea had to say.
"We have a lot of issues, including the Kaesong industrial
zone," local media quoted her as saying. So should we not meet
with them and ask: "Just what are you trying to do?'"
The president was referring to North Korea's closure this
week of the jointly run Kaesong industrial park, with the loss
of 53,000 jobs.
(Additional reporting by Ju-min Park in SEOUL, Sui-Lee Wee in
BEIJING, John Ruwitch in SHANGHAI, and Patricia Zengerle, Mark
Hosenball and Jeff Mason in WASHINGTON; Writing by Ronald
Popeski; Editing by Nick Macfie)