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Politics

UN chief calls North Korea 'most dangerous crisis we face'

Guterres urges international action on nuclear threat, Rohingya issue and climate change

UNITED NATIONS -- U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called on the Security Council to unite on the North Korean issue at a news conference Tuesday, asserting that such unity is needed to pressure Pyongyang back to the negotiating table.

"What is crucial here is the unity of the Security Council and the capacity of the five countries to come together with a single strategy" for dealing with the North Korean government, Guterres told reporters in front of the Security Council chamber, where council members had met the previous day to discuss Pyongyang's latest nuclear test.

Guterres was referring to the five countries that -- along with North Korea -- make up the six-party talks negotiation format, namely: Russia, China, Japan, the U.S. and South Korea.

"The most dangerous crisis we face today is the crisis related to the nuclear risk in relation to the Democratic People's Republic of Korea," Guterres said, using the North's official name.

"Wars usually do not start by a decision taken in a moment by the parties to go to war," Guterres said, warning that a step-by-step escalation could lead to war unexpectedly. "This is the risk we need to avoid," he warned.

The Security Council is currently working on a response to the North's test on Sunday of what it claimed was a hydrogen bomb. At an urgent meeting of the Security Council Monday, U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley announced that the U.S. intends to circulate a draft sanctions resolution, with the aim of putting it to a vote next Monday.

Other issues

In addition to warning of the consequences of further escalation on the North Korean front, Guterres took the opportunity of a rare news conference to warn of the dangers of climate change, as well as the situation faced by the Rohingya minority in Myanmar's Rakhine state, where reports have emerged of indiscriminate violence by government security forces.

"The grievances and unresolved plight of the Rohingya have festered for far too long and are becoming an undeniable factor in regional destabilization," Guterres said of the Muslim minority group. Legally unrecognized by the Buddhist-majority government of Myanmar, thousands of Rohingya Muslims have fled across the border into neighboring Bangladesh.

"The authorities in Myanmar must take determined action to put an end to this vicious cycle of violence and provide security and assistance to all those in need," the secretary-general said.

In a letter addressed to the president of the Security Council Saturday, Guterres warned that the situation "risks degenerating into a humanitarian catastrophe with implications for peace and security that could continue to expand beyond Myanmar's borders." Guterres also called on the international community to "undertake concerted efforts to prevent further escalation of the crisis."

"I understand the complexity of the situation in Myanmar," Guterres told reporters Tuesday, when asked if he was disappointed in State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi for her handling of the situation in the western state. "We want a Myanmar that is democratic, but we also want a Myanmar where the Rohingya population will see their rights fully respected."

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