Tillerson urges North Korea to cease missile tests and talk to the US

The US Secretary of State struck a more conciliatory tone on North Korea after the UN Security Council approved a new round of sanctions on Pyongyang

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson

The Secretary of State of the United States of America, Rex Tillerson, said on Monday that the US was willing to hold talks with North Korea, if and when it decided to halt it missile tests.

Last week, Pyongyang tested yet another intercontinental ballistic missile, its 13th so far this year leading the United Nations Security Council to unanimously approve further sanctions on the rouge communist state. The latest round of sanctions are expected to slash the North Korea’s export revenues by a third.

Tillerson was speaking at an international gathering in Manila, the Philippines, where he told journalists that under the right conditions, the US and North Korea could “sit and have a dialogue around the future of North Korea so they feel secure and prosper economically”.

"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.

There was no direct reaction from North Korea to Tillerson's remarks but in a statement after the U.S. 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.

Under Donald Trump’s administration, the US’ attempts at pressure North Korea into abandoning its nuclear and missile ambitions have so far gained little traction, and Pyongyang has only stepped up its tests, launching two intercontinental ballistic missile tests last month.

Tillerson's remarks might be an attempt to try another tack by the United States, which also has tried to get Pyongyang's ally China to use its influence to prevent North Korean leader Kim Jong Un from building a nuclear arsenal.

Tillerson said halting missile test launches, which have worried neighbors South Korea and Japan, was a first step toward dialogue.

"We’ve not had an extended period of time where they have not taken some type of provocative action by launching ballistic missiles."

He said Washington would not "specify a specific number of days or weeks" before deciding that North Korea had indeed halted its tests.

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