Singapore prime minister warns that North Korea issue is ‘different this time’

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said the situation with North Korea is different and riskier now because of its nuclear capability.
Ministry of Communications and Information

It’s a different North Korea that the world is facing right now, one that could see Japan and South Korea arming with nuclear weapons, and setting off longer term effects in Northeast Asia, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Oct 19.

During an interview with CNBC, Mr Lee outlined his concerns, stressing that while North Korea has postured and made threats for a long time, the danger is “different this time”.

He said: “What’s different this time is that North Korea has more nuclear weapons, they’ve conducted more nuclear tests, they’re developing their missile technology, particularly the ICMB technology, and so the risks are higher.”

Tensions have escalated in recent months with North Korea recently testing what it said was a hydrogen bomb on Sept 3 and firing a missile over Japan.

North Korea has also repeatedly threatened to detonate a nuclear device aboveground in what could be its most dangerous and provocative move ever.

On Monday, North Korea’s deputy United Nations ambassador warned that a “nuclear war may break out any moment”, which has forced South Korea and Japan to consider their security options, including the deployment of US tactical weapons in both countries.

He said: “These are thoughts which cannot be completely suppressed and if in fact, it goes that way, and South Korea and Japan go closer to being nuclear powers or actually cross the threshold, it means a different strategic and security balance in Northeast Asia.”

The tension would also cause the Chinese to be “very alarmed”, he added.

“I don’t think they’ll make for a safer world. There’ll be implications elsewhere in the world.”