By Jethro Mullen and Melissa Gray
As North Koreans celebrated the birthday on Monday of their country's late founder, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry urged the regime in Pyongyang to ditch its nuclear program and put a lid on its fiery threats if it wants to hold talks.
"The United States has made clear many times what the conditions are for our entering talks and they haven't changed," Kerry said during an interview with CNN's Jill Dougherty in Tokyo.
"The conditions have to be met where the North has to move towards denuclearization, indicate a seriousness in doing so by reducing these threats, stop the testing, and indicate it's actually prepared to negotiate," he said.
Kerry was speaking at the end of a three-day trip that focused on securing fresh commitments from South Korea, China and Japan to try to persuade Pyongyang to return to the negotiating table and renounce nuclear weapons.
By Pam Benson and Chris Lawrence
Despite the uproar over a disclosure this week of Pentagon intelligence concluding North Korea may be able to deliver a nuclear weapon on a ballistic missile, it's not the first time the Defense Intelligence Agency has suggested Pyongyang had that capability.
Since 2005, two former DIA chiefs have raised the possibility during congressional testimony.
At a Senate Armed Service Committee hearing in April 2005, then-DIA director Vice Admiral Lowell Jacoby acknowledged the possibility in response to a question about whether North Korea had the capability to put a nuclear device on a missile.
"The assessment is that they have the capability to do that," Jacoby said.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in South Korea on Friday for a trip likely to focus on North Korea's recent nuclear threats and provocations.
Kerry, who landed in Seoul, is about 30 miles (48 kilometers) from the demilitarized zone that separates the two countries. The Korean peninsula is rife with tensions over the belligerent threats issued by Pyongyang.
Shortly after his arrival, Kerry told reporters at a news conference with the South Korean foreign minister that the United States and South Korea agree that North Korea will not be accepted as a nuclear power.
"The rhetoric that we are hearing is simply unacceptable,” Kerry said.
Kerry also said that the United States is prepared to enter into talks with North Korea, but only if the North is serious about negotiating the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.
By Jill Dougherty
The Obama administration says China is increasingly frustrated by the provocative actions of North Korea and Secretary of State John Kerry will try to convince leaders in Beijing that Pyongyang is, as one senior administration official said, "putting China's own interests at risk."
Briefing reporters on Kerry's plane as he flew from London to the first stop on his four-day Asian tour, that official and a senior State Department official said the administration is urging China to use its leverage with the North "otherwise it is very destabilizing."
From Barbara Starr and Chris Lawrence
The Pentagon’s intelligence arm has assessed with “moderate confidence” that North Korea has the ability to deliver a nuclear weapon by ballistic missile though the reliability is believed to be “low.” The assessment by the Defense Intelligence Agency was revealed during a Congressional hearing on Thursday.
"DIA assess with moderate confidence the North currently has nuclear weapons capable of delivery by ballistic missiles, however, the reliability will be low,” the agency concludes, according to an unclassified version of the report read out by Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-CO) during a House Armed Services Hearing.
Pentagon spokesman George Little refused to comment on the assessment in an interview broadcast on ‘The Lead with Jake Tapper,’ saying that while the conclusion was unclassified, “the underlying content is definitely classified.”
By Jill Dougherty
Secretary of State John Kerry embarks on his Asian trip at a critical time, flying to South Korea just as North Korea is threatening to launch missiles. When he arrives in Seoul on Friday, he will be only 30 miles from the demilitarized zone that separates the two countries.
Kerry already has warned the North on what he calls leader Kim Jong Un's "provocative ... dangerous, reckless" rhetoric and actions. Since that comment more than a week ago, he has said little in public, however. The first part of this 10-day international trip - to Turkey and Israel - was focused on the Middle East peace process and Syria.
Even if those are complex, thorny issues, they are subjects with which Kerry is more familiar. As a senator and the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, he did not travel extensively in Asia and does not have the extensive list of friends among Asian leaders that he has in Europe and the Middle East.
By Jake Tapper and Jennifer Rizzo
Imagine the North Korean regime has toppled, either because the U.S. or South Korea take it out, or because of a coup, and the U.S. has to surge troops to secure the country's nuclear stockpiles to make sure they do not fall into the wrong hands.
The frightening scenario was played out at the U.S. Army War College recently, and it did not end well. The military sets the scene in the fictitious land of "North Brownland," essentially an alias for North Korea.
By Barbara Starr
Intelligence suggests that North Korea may be planning "multiple missile launches" in the coming days beyond two Musudan mobile missiles it has placed along its east coast, Pentagon officials told CNN on Wednesday.
The officials did not have specifics on the numbers of other missiles and launchers.
One official said the North Koreans are military "masters of deception" and may have planned all along to focus the world's attention on the Musudans while they plan multiple launches of other missiles, which is a tactic they have used in the past.
But the United States is less troubled about the movement of the other missile launchers, a second Pentagon official told CNN.
"We've been seeing some launchers moving around. These are smaller and don't cause us as much concerns," that official said. "We think these movements are within seasonal norms for their exercises."
But he didn't discount the possibility that they might launch some of those, as they often do.
By Elise Labott
In the days before North Korea’s latest round of threats and provocations, US and North Korean officials met in New York, although nothing came of the meeting, said a source familiar with what transpired. The source described the meeting as part of regular backchannel exchanges between the countries.
Clifford Hart, the US envoy for six party talks aimed at North Korean denuclearization, met with North Korea’s Deputy UN Ambassador Han Song-ryol in mid March, according to the source.
Hart repeated the Obama administration’s call for North Korea to avoid provocative actions and urged a return to diplomacy. Han promised to communicate the message back to Pyongyang, the source said.
The meeting was held as part of the so-called “New York channel,” a backchannel typically used to communicate and pass messages between Washington and Pyongyang in the absence of normal relations. In February, North Korea used the New York channel to warn the State Department about its third nuclear test.
The meeting was first reported by the Foreign Policy magazine blog, The Cable.
By Barbara Starr
The Obama administration believes North Korea has most likely completed launch preparations and could test fire mobile ballistic missiles at any time based on the most recent intelligence, a U.S. official said.
A test launch of one or both of missiles thought to be loaded into mobile launchers could happen without North Korea issuing a standard warning to commercial aviation and maritime shipping, according to the official.
The official declined to be named because of the sensitivity of the information.
He cautioned most of the information comes from satellite imagery, so it's impossible to reach a definitive conclusion because the United States has no means to gather information on the ground.