Tillerson says US willing to talk to North Korea without pre-condition

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson speaks during a forum on US-South Korea relations at the Atlantic Council in Washington, DC on Tuesday. (AFP)
Updated 13 December 2017
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Tillerson says US willing to talk to North Korea without pre-condition

WASHINGTON: US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson offered on Tuesday to begin talks with North Korea without pre-conditions, appearing to back away from US demands that Pyongyang must first accept that any negotiations would have to be based on North Korean nuclear disarmament.
“Let’s just meet,” Tillerson said in a speech to Washington think tank the Atlantic Council, presenting a new diplomatic overture amid heightened tensions over North Korea’s nuclear and missile advances and harsh rhetoric between the two sides.
Tensions have flared anew since North Korea said it had successfully tested a new intercontinental ballistic missile last month in what it called a “breakthrough” that put the US mainland within range.
While reiterating Washington’s long-standing position that it cannot tolerate a nuclear-armed North Korea, Tillerson said the United States was “ready to talk any time they’re ready to talk,” but that Pyongyang must come to the table willing to make choices to change its course.
“We can talk about the weather if you want. We can talk about whether it’s going to be a square table or a round table,” he said.
“Then we can begin to lay out a map, a road map, of what we might be willing to work toward,” Tillerson said, suggesting that any initial contacts would be about setting the ground rules for formal negotiations.
It was not immediately clear whether Tillerson, whose influence has appeared to wane within the administration, had President Donald Trump’s full support to seek such a diplomatic opening.
Tillerson has previously expressed a desire to use diplomatic channels with Pyongyang, but Trump tweeted in October that such engagement would be a waste of time.
North Korea, for its part, has made clear that it has little interest in negotiations with the United States until it has developed the ability to hit the US mainland with a nuclear-tipped missile, something most experts say it has still not achieved.
“We’re ready to have the first meeting without pre-conditions,” Tillerson said at the Atlantic Council.
“It’s not realistic to say we’re only going to talk if you come to the table ready to give up your program,” he said. “They have too much invested in it. The president is very realistic about that as well.”
Tillerson also said that the United States was working to tighten enforcement of international sanctions against North Korea, especially further measures that China can apply, and that Washington had a full menu of military options if such a response is needed. He said the United States has had conversations with China about how North Korean nuclear weapons might be secured in a crisis and has assured Beijing that if US forces had to cross into North Korea they would return to South Korea.
But he made clear that the United States wants to resolve the North Korea standoff through peaceful diplomacy.


Japan halts missile drills after Trump-Kim summit

Updated 21 June 2018
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Japan halts missile drills after Trump-Kim summit

TOKYO: Japan has halted evacuation drills simulating a North Korean missile attack in the wake of historic talks between Washington and Pyongyang, local media reported Thursday.
Government officials did not immediately confirm the reports, but authorities in one town said they were suspending a drill planned for next week on orders from Tokyo.
The decision comes after US President Donald Trump and North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un met last week in Singapore, with the pair signing a joint document calling for denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.
Yaita in Tochigi prefecture north of Tokyo had been planning an evacuation drill for next week involving some 800 residents including 350 school children, city official Yutaka Yanagida said.
But the city suddenly canceled all preparations late Wednesday after being instructed by the government that “drills should be postponed for the time being following a change in the environment after the US-North Korea summit,” he said.
Contacted by AFP, a Cabinet Office official said the government would announce its policy on evacuation drills on Friday, declining to comment further.
Last year, Pyongyang fired two missiles over Japan and it has splashed others into the sea near the country, sparking a mix of panic and outrage.
Earlier this year, hundreds of Tokyo residents scrambled for cover in the Japanese capital’s first evacuation drill for a military attack by Pyongyang.
North Korea has singled out Japan, a key US ally in the region, for verbal attacks, threatening to “sink” the country into the sea and to turn it into “ashes.”
But the regional mood has turned toward diplomacy since the Winter Olympics hosted by South Korea, which set off a series of diplomatic moves culminating in the Trump-Kim meet.