Tillerson retreats on offer of unconditional North Korea talks


These remarks came after Secretary of State Rex Tillerson addressed the security council and called for Pyongyang to embrace a "sustained cessation" of long-range missile tests to open up the possibility of talks with the U.S.

"As I said earlier this week, a sustained cessation of North Korea's threatening behavior must occur before talks can begin", Tillerson told a meeting of the U.N. Security Council in NY.

North Korea's growing nuclear capabilities amount to a "direct threat to our security and the security of the entire world", Tillerson told the 15-nation council at a high-level meeting on nuclear nonproliferation convened by Japan, which now holds the UNSC rotating presidency. "But we do not seek, nor do we want, war with North Korea", he said.

However, Mr Trump's Administration has now said it is willing to sit down with North Korean officials in an attempt to hammer out a diplomatic solution to the tension.

He repeated his openness to talks with the North Koreans, but added the caveat that Pyongyang "must earn its way back to the table". "The pressure campaign must and will continue until denuclearization is achieved", Tillerson told the meeting.

The risk of war, Guterres said, "is being multiplied by misplaced over-confidence, risky narratives and rhetoric, and the lack of communication channels".

He said the USA will not accept, as a precondition of talks, ending existing sanctions.

The two are co-hosting an global conference in the new year on the North Korea standoff.

In opening Friday's Security Council session, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged the world to start communicating with North Korea to reduce the risk of "miscalculation or misunderstanding".

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They also exchanged views on Tillerson's recent offer of unconditional talks with North Korea, but the Japanese officials did not reveal the content.

"Similarly, as Chinese crude oil flows to North Korean refineries, the United States questions China's commitment to solving an issue that has serious implications for the security of its own citizens", he added.

He said that continuing to allow North Korean labourers to toil in "slave-like conditions" for wages used to fund nuclear weapons "calls into question Russia's dedication as a partner for peace".

He insisted that Pyongyang's development of nuclear weapons is a self-defensive measure aimed at protecting its sovereign rights from "the US nuclear threat and blackmail".

"It is time to immediately re-establish and strengthen communication channels, including inter-Korean and military-to-military channels", Guterres said. President Donald Trump has vowed to prevent such capability, with military action if necessary. For South Korea, it's the issue of life and death, and it's obviously not going to fight.

China's deputy United Nations ambassador, Wu Haitao, said Beijing has already made sacrifices by clamping down on business it does with North Korea.

Feltman, the highest-ranking American at the United Nations, told reporters earlier this week that he engaged in more than 15 hours of talks over several days with Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho and Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs Pak Myong Guk.

Of the 15 nations in the Security Council, only a handful - not including Russian Federation or China - sent their foreign ministers to attend the event.

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