A senior British official said Friday a package of both sanctions and diplomacy is needed to denuclearize North Korea and now is not the right time to have dialogue given the graveness of its threat.
Mark Field, minister for Asia and the Pacific at the U.K. Foreign Office, expressed skepticism toward emerging calls for talks in South Korea, the United States and other key stakeholder nations over Pyongyang's evolving nuclear and missile programs.
"We want to do both things together. Effective sanctions often do bring recalcitrant nations to come forward ... and have rational discussions about their activities going forward," Field told a group of reporters in Seoul.
Field said, however, now may not be the right time for talks with North Korea and the international community may need to adopt further U.N. Security Council resolutions to rein in the North.
"I recognize that we may have to go for further UNSC sanctions at some point in the future," the minister said, adding that the U.S. is "open-minded" about that path.
The minister is on a three-day visit to South Korea as part of his Asian trip. In Seoul, he met with Vice Foreign Minister Lim Sung-nam and plans to visit the Demilitarized Zone on Saturday before leaving the country.
"Formal negotiations at some point will be part of the solution but not necessarily now," Field said. "A mix of sanctions and broad diplomacy at some point, one hopes, will be able to get people to the negotiating table. (But) I don't think we are at that point at the moment."
Referring to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's staunch pursuit of nuclear weapons, he said "There's little doubt that he sees the nuclear issue as being his legacy ... to come out of the shadow of his father and grandfather."
That left China with less leverage over North Korea today than in the past, he said.
With North Korea's fifth nuclear test last year and recent missile launches, North Korea made "a step change" in its nuclear capacity, he added.
He hailed the BBC's plan to air broadcasts to North Korea from next month, saying it will help connect average people there with unbiased outside news.
"The more people in the North realize that they are being told an absolutely false story by their government about what's going on beyond the borders, one hopes that there will be more discontent about the regime and that is the part of the purpose," he said. "It will be interesting to see the impact to be had in the months and years ahead."
Also drawing on the U.K.'s official exit from the European Union in 2019, he said his country is discussing with South Korea to forge a bilateral trade agreement.
"One thing we are very keen to do is to start with a zero tariff regime, in other words, a tariff-free organization. I am very confident this will be a seamless process," Field said.