Tensions high as Kerry arrives in South Korea

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U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, third left, is escorted by U.S. Ambasador to South Korea Sung Y. Kim, second left, and Deputy director general of South Korea’s Foriegn Ministry, Moon Seoung-hyun, center, upon arrival at Seoul air base in Seoul, Friday, April 12, 2013. Kerry arrived in South Korea on Friday on an unusual diplomatic journey, traveling directly into a region bracing for a possible North Korean missile test and risking that his presence alone could spur Pyongyang into another headline-seeking provocation. AP

SEOUL–US Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in South Korea on Friday, kicking off a maiden Asia tour during which he is expected to push China to rein in an increasingly belligerent North Korea.

The whirlwind three-day trip will include stops in Beijing and Tokyo on what is being seen by observers as a “getting to know you” tour.

A top US official travelling with Kerry said China had a key role to play in the current crisis on the Korean peninsula which has been caught in a cycle of escalating tensions since North Korea’s nuclear test in February.

“China has a huge stake in stability, and the continued North Korean pursuit of a nuclear-armed missile capability is the enemy of stability,” the official said.

Kerry arrived as news broke of a report compiled by the US military spy agency that suggested Pyongyang had the ability to launch a nuclear-armed ballistic missile.

Kerry was due to be briefed first-hand on the tensions from top US military commanders on the ground in South Korea, ahead of meetings with new South Korean President Park Geun-Hye and Foreign Minister Yun Byung-Se.

South Korean and US forces are currently on heightened alert ahead of a widely-expected missile test-launch by North Korea.

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