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US tells North Korea: 'Stop missile tests if you want to talk'

The UN Security Council on Saturday unanimously approved a US-drafted sanctions package over the weekend.

A man watches a TV news program showing an image of North Korean leader Kim Jong un during the North's latest test launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile, at Seoul Railway Station in Seoul, South Korea.
A man watches a TV news program showing an image of North Korean leader Kim Jong un during the North's latest test launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile, at Seoul Railway Station in Seoul, South Korea.
Image: Ahn Young-joon

US SECRETARY OF State Rex Tillerson has ruled out a quick return to dialogue with North Korea, as he said new UN sanctions showed the world had run out of patience with Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons ambitions.

Speaking to reporters at a security forum in the Philippines, Tillerson said Washington would only consider talks if Pyongyang halted its ballistic missile programme – something the North has insisted it has no intention of doing.

“The best signal that North Korea could send that they’re prepared to talk would be to stop these missile launches,” Tillerson said.

He nevertheless held out the prospect of US envoys at some point sitting down with Pyongyang’s isolated regime and avoiding the escalating threat of war.

Tillerson’s remarks followed a rare exchange between the foreign ministers of the two Koreas on the sidelines of the Manila forum, during which the North’s Ri Yong-Ho showed no signs his nation had been intimidated by the latest rounds of sanctions.

In an effort to halt North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un’s drive to become a nuclear power, the UN Security Council on Saturday unanimously approved a US-drafted sanctions package against his nation that could cost it $1 billion a year.

The sanctions were in response to the North conducting two intercontinental ballistic missile tests last month that Kim boasted showed he could strike any part of the United States.

US President Donald Trump and his South Korean counterpart, Moon Jae-In, spoke on the phone and agreed the North “poses a grave and growing direct threat” to most countries around the world, according to a White House statement.

Trump later took to social media to hail the vote, thanking Russia and China in a Twitter post for backing the sanctions that either could have halted with their UN veto.

Trump said he was “very happy and impressed with 15-0 United Nations vote on North Korea sanctions”.

‘World united’

North Korea Missile This photo distributed by the North Korean government shows what was said to be the launch of a Hwasong-14 intercontinental ballistic missile at an undisclosed location in North Korea. Source: 朝鮮通信社

Tillerson, who held separate talks in Manila with foreign ministers Wang Yi of China and Sergei Lavrov of Russia, also sought to emphasise a united stance against the North.

“It’s quite clear in terms of there being no daylight between the international community as to the expectation that North Korea will take steps to achieve all of my objectives, which is a denuclearised Korean peninsula,” he told reporters.

Tillerson met with Wang and Lavrov as part of an annual gathering of top envoys of 26 Asia-Pacific nations plus the European Union for talks on regional security known as the ASEAN Regional Forum.

However, signalling that differences remained between the world powers on how to handle the North, Wang reiterated China’s position that sanctions alone would not solve the problem and called again for the United States to talk to the North.

“Only dialogue and negotiation is the correct way out to address the Korean peninsula issue,” Wang said.

Tillerson insisted Kim must first stop the missile tests, but he would not set a timeframe on when this might be possible or how long North Korea might have to refrain from testing more long-rang missiles.

“We’ll know it when we see it,” he told reporters.

“I’m not going to give someone a specific number of days or weeks. This is really about the spirit of these talks.

© AFP 2017

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