Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates warned North Korea on Saturday that the United States would not accept it as a nuclear weapons state and would consider any transfer of nuclear material to other countries or terrorist groups a “grave threat” to the United States and its allies.
“We will not stand idly by as North Korea builds the capability to wreak destruction on any target in the region — or on us,” Mr. Gates told a major security conference here that has been dominated by North Korea’s test this week of a nuclear device and the firing of at least six short-range missiles, all in defiance of international sanctions. North Korea test-fired a missile on Friday, according to a South Korean defense official.
North Korea, Mr. Gates said, had a choice: “To continue as a destitute, international pariah, or chart a new course.”
Mr. Gates, who was speaking for the first time at the annual conference, called the Shangri-La Dialogue, as an emissary of his new commander in chief, said the new administration had limited patience with North Korea’s bellicose words and behavior.
“President Obama has offered an open hand to tyrannies that unclench their fists,” Mr. Gates said. “He is hopeful, but he is not naïve. Likewise, the United States and our allies are open to dialogue, but we will not bend to pressure or provocation.”