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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 24 June 2018

John Kerry says Trump's Twitter tirades fuel North Korea's nuclear ambitions

The former US Secretary of State was speaking at London think tank Chatham House

John Kerry has warned US President Donald Trump that ranting about North Korea on Twitter could fuel the regime's nuclear ambitions. Gary Cameron/ Reuters
John Kerry has warned US President Donald Trump that ranting about North Korea on Twitter could fuel the regime's nuclear ambitions. Gary Cameron/ Reuters

John Kerry, the former US Secretary of State, warned President Donald Trump’s Twitter tirades against North Korea’s leader could harm efforts to stop Pyongyang going nuclear.

“We would be greatly helped by not having a personal Twitter war that could make it far more dangerous,” Mr Kerry told the London think tank Chatham House.

Mr Kerry urged Mr Trump to persuade China that it has many options for putting pressure on North Korea to come to the negotiating table. The Republican president arrives in China later this week.

“100% of the fuel that drives every car, every truck, every aeroplane comes from China and 100% of the banking, such as it is, that North Korea is able to effect, comes from Beijing,” he said.

“Beijing has every possibility in the world to put greater pressure on North Korea. Some people say they are worried about the implosion of the regime, and the stability of the peninsula. We are not close to the point of implosion. China has many tools available in its tool box to put on pressure.”

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Mr Kerry also said it would be "extraordinarily dangerous" for the Iran nuclear deal to be abandoned. He said Iran was two months away from a nuclear bomb in 2015 but would not be able to develop a weapon for at least a year after the deal expires in 2030.

President Trump last month decertified Iran's compliance with the agreement, but stopped short of scrapping the deal outright, instead handing the issue over to Congress.

Mr Kerry, who is in Europe to lobby support for the deal, complained the decision "was clearly made without relevance to any fact whatsoever" and criticised the involvement of Congress.

"It's been flipped over to the Congress with instructions, you guys fix it,” he said. "How the US Congress, which wasn't part of the negotiations, which isn't certified to be part of the negotiations, fixes an agreement which is working is beyond me.

"What President Trump regrettably has done by his invective against the deal, he's polluted the pool in a way that whatever Congress does is going to be interpreted as their effort to kill the deal through the back door."

Congress was given 60 days to decide whether to reimpose sanctions that were lifted in return for Tehran abandoning its nuclear ambitions.

Mr Kerry said there was a "great danger" that Congress could act unilaterally to alter the deal, narrowing Iran's room for manoeuvre and "creating a downward spiral that becomes extraordinarily dangerous."

"It would be a gigantic, historic mistake when dealing with nuclear weapons to allow anyone's politics to get in the way and break apart an agreement that is preventing a country from pursuing a nuclear weapon," he added.

Opponents of the deal claim that it does not go far enough to prevent Tehran from getting a nuclear weapon, and point to Iran's recent missile launches.

But the former senator said the missile issue could not be incorporated in to the nuclear agreement. "The deal is working and is doing what it is supposed to do. It is a deal with Iran on nuclear weapons. Iran's missiles have to be dealt with separately," he said.