'We are at the crossroads between peace and war,' ambassador warns of North Korea's nuclear threat

South Korea's Ambassador to Canada weighs in on the state of escalated tensions with North Korea: 'We're at the crossroads between peace and war.'

South Korea's Ambassador to Canada Shin Maeng-ho says diplomacy should be backed by military power

U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un exchanged fiery rhetoric over nuclear capabilities. South Korea's Ambassador to Canada says effective diplomacy should be backed with military power. (Evan Vucci/Associated Press, Korean Central News Agency/Reuters)

Amid heightened tensions and a fiery exchange of bellicose rhetoric between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korea's leader Kim Jong-un, South Korea's Ambassador to Canada believes the situation is at a "crossroads between peace and war."

"North Korean leader, Mr. Kim Jong-un, said that he has a nuclear button on his desk. It is a really serious situation," said Ambassador Shin Maeng-ho, in an interview with CBC News Network's Power & Politics.

The ambassador's remarks follow an extraordinary start to 2018. In a speech on Monday, Kim said "the entire United States is within range of our nuclear weapons, and a nuclear button is always on my desk. This is reality, not a threat."

Trump responded Tuesday with a tweet, saying he too has a nuclear button, which is much bigger and more powerful.

When asked if Trump's tweet helped the situation, Shin told guest host Terry Milewski that the U.S. and South Korea are in "total agreement that we should use all diplomatic ways and means to resolve this issue." 

But Shin said South Korea agrees that in order for diplomacy to be effective, it must be backed by military power.

North, South Korea agree to hold talks

Seoul officials confirmed Thursday that officials from North and South Korea have agreed to sit down for formal talks for the first time since 2015. This development has led some analysts to suggest Kim may be trying to put some distance between South Korea and the U.S. and perhaps buy more time for his country to develop its nuclear weapons program.

Ambassador Shin said North Korea would continue to develop its nuclear and missile capability with or without dialogue and he dismissed the notion that Kim could drive a wedge between the U.S. and South Korea. 

"[The] relationship between South Korea and the U.S. has been forged for the past 70 years. It is not weak. It is very mature, strong and resilient." said Shin. "I don't even dream that North Korea can drive a wedge between South Korea and the U.S."

"I think the dialogue...between South Korea and North Korea is important at this moment because we would like to foster a more favourable atmosphere to talk about denuclearization of North Korea."

South Korea to attend Vancouver meeting

Shin confirmed that South Korea's foreign minister will attend the upcoming foreign ministers' meeting on January 16. Canada and the U.S. have invited most of the countries who fought in the 1950-53 Korean War in an effort to coordinate the international community's response in dealing with North Korea's increasingly erratic behaviour. 

"I think the international community should show strong will that we will not accept (a) nuclear North Korea," said Shin. "But at the same time, we should show our international community's will to work with North Korea for a brighter future if North Korea makes the right decision. It is a quite balanced approach."

North Korea agrees to talks with South Korea as Donald Trump's rhetoric against Pyongyang ramps up. 6:21

With files from Reuters