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UN chief: It's key to avoid miscalculations on North Korea

MARI YAMAGUCHI
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U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres gestures while speaking during a joint news conference with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at Abe's official residence in Tokyo Thursday, Dec. 14, 2017. Guterres is in Tokyo to participate in the Universal Health Coverage (UHC) Forum. (Toru Hanai/Pool Photo via AP)

TOKYO (AP) — United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called Thursday for urgent efforts to create conditions for talks on North Korea's growing missile and nuclear threat, saying it's important to avoid miscalculations and misperceptions that "make us sleepwalk into a war."

Guterres, who met with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Tokyo, said the U.N.'s objective is to avoid a conflict.

"I think we all want to avoid that things get out of control, and that misperceptions and mishandling of situations make us sleepwalk into a war that will have devastating consequences," he told journalists in Tokyo.

Guterres, who was in Japan to attend an international conference on universal health coverage, said it's important that all parties understand the urgency of finding a peaceful solution.

He said U.N. political chief Jeffrey Feltman visited Pyongyang last week and conveyed "a very strong message" to the foreign minister and other officials that not only that all Security Council resolutions — which include bans on nuclear and ballistic missile tests — must be implemented, "but there must be a sense of urgency in creating the conditions for a meaningful dialogue to achieve the denuclearization of the (Korean) Peninsula."

Japan holds the presidency of the Security Council this month and Foreign Minister Taro Kono is chairing a ministerial meeting on North Korea on Friday that U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and others are expected to attend.

Guterres said the unity of the Security Council "is crucial" on North Korea including implementation of sanctions resolutions.

Asked if he is considering a trip to North Korea to meet with leader Kim Jong Un, Guterres said: "Meetings only make sense if there is a purpose to those meetings. I'm ready to go anywhere at any time when it is useful."

Abe said he agrees that possible dialogue with North Korea must be meaningful and aimed at the country's denuclearization.

Tillerson this week made a surprising diplomatic offer of unconditional talks with North Korea. But it isn't clear whether the proposal has support from U.S. President Donald Trump, and whether the North even wants talks.

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Edith M. Lederer contributed to this report from the United Nations

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