US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson held a door open for dialogue with North Korea on Monday, saying Washington was willing to talk to Pyongyang if it halted a series of recent missile test launches, Reuters reports.
Tillerson’s comments at a regional security forum in Manila were the latest US attempt to rein in Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile programs after months of tough talk from US President Donald Trump.
The UN Security Council on Saturday imposed its toughest round of sanctions yet against Pyongyang over its two intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) tests in July.
But Tillerson appeared more conciliatory on Monday.
“The best signal that North Korea can give us that they are prepared to talk would be to stop these missile launches,” said Tillerson, adding that “other means of communications” were open to Pyongyang. He also said any dialogue would deal with how North Korea can “feel secure and prosper economically”.
Last week, Tillerson said North Korea needed to cease both its missile launches and nuclear weapons tests for talks to begin. It was not clear why he urged Pyongyang on Monday to halt only missile launches and the State Department did not respond to a request for clarification.
But a senior official familiar with negotiations between the United States and China said “it was not an accident or a mistake that Tillerson did not mention nuclear testing”.
Washington is leaving it to China to restate world powers’ opposition to new nuclear bomb tests while the United States urges a halt in missile launches “which obviously is a much lower rhetorical barrier to resuming talks”, the official said.
There was no direct reaction from North Korea to Tillerson’s remarks but in a statement after the US secretary of state made his comments, Pyongyang responded robustly to the new sanctions by saying it was ready to teach the United States a “severe lesson” if it attacked.
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