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Ban Ki-moon calls Trump's North Korea tweets 'a message from the international community'

  • Former UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon spoke positively of Trump's North Korea tweets as "a message from the international community"
  • North and South Korean leaders will meet Tuesday in the first government-level talks since 2015
  • Ban emphasized the importance of U.S. supporting the Iran deal, stressing it could set a negative precedent for the reliability of weapons agreements if abandoned
United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon.
Timothy A. Clary | AFP | Getty Images
United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon.

Former United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has taken a positive view of U.S President Donald Trump's tweets on North Korea.

Speaking to CNBC on Monday on the sidelines of the UBS China Conference in Shanghai, Ban downplayed concerns about what many have called Trump's reckless rhetoric in response to President Kim Jong Un's ballistic missile tests.

Trump's tweets, in which he mocked the North Korean leader and called him "rocket man," among other things, have caused significant controversy and sparked fears of escalation.

"There is a tendency to see President Trump's remarks as very provocative rhetoric. But I would like to interpret that in another way — these are strong words and (a) message of (the) international community given to North Korea," Ban said.

Ban's comments came ahead of what is set to be a momentous meeting between North and South Korean leaders in the border town of Panmunjom on Tuesday — more than two years since the last government-level talks were held. The proposal for talks originally came from South Korean President Moon Jae-In, who took office in May 2017 on the promise of opening dialogue with the North.

The upcoming talks represent an important effort to quell hostile activities near the countries' shared border; they take on a sense of urgency following the unprecedented pace of North Korean missile development in recent months. Ban, who is South Korean, described the current climate on the peninsula as possibly at its most tense since the end of the Korean War in 1953.

Unprecedented escalation

Pyongyang has fired 23 missiles during 16 tests since the start of 2017, conducting its first intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) in July, which it claimed could reach "anywhere in the world." These claims have been disputed by Western security officials. But Kim Jong Un has now tested more missiles than his father and grandfather combined, according to a report by CNN.

"North Korea is the worst norm-breaker of the international community," Ban said. "It is important that, whether it is called Trump rhetoric or not, we must be united in sending out a very strong message to North Korea so that they realize there is no other way for them to return to the international community as a responsible member (than by) abiding by all of these basic norms and principles of the United Nations Charter."

The UN Security Council has imposed nine major sanctions resolutions on North Korea since 2006, in response to its nuclear and missile-related activities.

A mobile launcher that's similar to one that may be used to launch a new reconnaissance satellite is paraded in Pyongyang in April 2017.
ED JONES/AFP/Getty Images
A mobile launcher that's similar to one that may be used to launch a new reconnaissance satellite is paraded in Pyongyang in April 2017.

"We sincerely hope that after so many years of (this) highest level of tension will lead to a larger and more meaningful dialogue between South and North Korea in addressing a meaningful denuclearization of the Korean peninsula," Ban added.

Protecting the Iran nuclear deal

Ban also talked about the Iran nuclear deal and its fast-approaching January 15 deadline. By that date, the Trump administration will have to decide whether to recertify the deal or not.

Ban urged the safeguarding of the deal as an assurance of U.S. credibility, warning that if the Washington didn't follow through on its international agreements, other countries may find little reason to enter into multilateral disarmament deals.

"I have been urging through certain channels to the U.S. administration that it's important that the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) must be kept and implemented faithfully, as agreed among the parties concerned," he said.

"Otherwise, this may give a very negative message to even North Korea. When trying to agree... on denuclearization of the Korean peninsula, how can they have trust in the international community, particularly the U.S., when any agreement could be easily broken by the parties who have agreed on that?"