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Tillerson: US still interested in talks with N. Korea

Aug. 16, 2017 - 09:11 By Yonhap
 The United States continues to be interested in dialogue with North Korea, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Tuesday, as the two sides appeared to tamp down escalating tensions over the regime's nuclear and missile programs.

Tillerson made clear, however, that the ball is in North Korea's court.

 "We continue to be interested in finding a way to get to a dialogue but that's up to him," he told reporters at the State Department, referring to the North's leader, Kim Jong-un, after announcing the release of a new religious freedom report.

He did not go into details, but the secretary has previously said the North could signal a willingness to hold talks on its denuclearization by stopping missile tests.

Tensions flared last week after Pyongyang threatened to fire four intermediate-range ballistic missiles towards the US territory of Guam. Kim suspended that plan early Tuesday, saying he would watch Washington's behavior "a little more."

"I have no response to his decisions at all at this time," Tillerson said.

North Korea conducted two intercontinental ballistic missile tests in July, sharply increasing tensions in an already volatile region.

The missiles, according to many experts and officials, had the range to strike the mainland US.
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson speaks at the briefing room of the US State Department in Washington, DC. (AFP-Yonhap)

The UN Security Council adopted tough new sanctions against North Korea to deprive the regime of money needed to finance its missile and nuclear programs.

Pyongyang threatened to retaliate against Washington, a key author of the resolution. Then, the Washington Post reported, citing US intelligence, the North has succeeded in miniaturizing a nuclear warhead to fit inside one of its missiles.

Trump unleashed a series of unusually strong warnings in response, saying the communist nation should prepare for "fire and fury" if it continued to threaten the US He later added that military solutions are "locked and loaded" should the North act "unwisely."

Other US officials, including Tillerson, sought to allay concerns the nuclear armed nations may go to war.

Pundits warn of further provocations later this month, when South Korea and the US conduct regular military exercises. The North has long condemned them as a rehearsal for a northward invasion despite the allies' reassurances they are purely defensive in nature. (Yonhap)