by Staff Writers
Washington (AFP) Aug 15, 2017
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Tuesday, after North Korea's Kim Jong-Un postponed a threat to fire missiles towards the US territory of Guam, that Washington remains ready for talks.
But the top US diplomat said it would be up to Kim when such negotiations would begin, having previously insisted Pyongyang must demonstrate that it accepts it will have to give up its nuclear program.
"I have no response to his decisions at all at this time," Tillerson said, when asked about Kim's decision to hold off. "We continue to be interested in finding ways to get to dialogue, but that's up to him."
Speaking after the launch of a religious freedom report, Tillerson would not go into more detail as to how North Korea could demonstrate a commitment to the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.
"North Korea would have to take some very serious steps and show us that they are serious about their interest and intent in denuclearizing the Korean peninsula," Tillerson's spokeswoman Heather Nauert said.
"It would have to do a lot more. Secretary Tillerson has talked a lot about that. He's also said 'I'm not negotiating my way back to the negotiating table,' and North Korea knows exactly what it has to do."
He has previously said Pyongyang must halt ballistic missile and nuclear tests for an unspecified amount of time before negotiations can begin on how to halt the stand-off and any threat of US military action.
Earlier Tuesday, the unpredictable and isolated North Korean leader had been briefed by his missile forces on a "plan for an enveloping fire at Guam," according to the North's official KCNA news agency.
But afterwards, according to KCNA, he decided to postpone the operation to "watch a little more the foolish and stupid conduct of the Yankees" and not to go ahead unless the US commits more "reckless actions."
North Korea leader holds off on Guam missile plan
Some analysts suggested Kim's comments opened a possible path to de-escalating a growing crisis fuelled by bellicose words between US President Donald Trump and the North Korean leadership.
Their recent exchanges were focused on a North Korean threat to fire a volley of four missiles over Japan towards the US territory of Guam, which hosts a number of strategic military bases.
The North's official KCNA news agency said Kim was briefed on the "plan for an enveloping fire at Guam" during an inspection on Monday of the Strategic Force command in charge of the nuclear-armed state's missile units.
But Kim said he would "watch a little more the foolish and stupid conduct of the Yankees" before executing any order.
If they "persist in their extremely dangerous reckless actions on the Korean peninsula," then North Korea would take action "as already declared," he was quoted as saying.
"In order to defuse the tensions and prevent the dangerous military conflict on the Korean peninsula, it is necessary for the US to make a proper option first," he added.
China said Tuesday that the North Korean nuclear crisis had reached a "turning point" and it was time to enter peace talks.
Beijing, which is Pyongyang's main diplomatic ally, has repeatedly called on the United States and North Korea to tone down their rhetoric in recent days.
"We now hope that all the concerned parties, in what they say and what they do, can contribute to extinguishing the fire (of the tense situation), rather than adding fuel to the fire," foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said.
- 'De-escalating' -
The remarks from Pyongyang would appear to bring into play the large-scale military exercises held every year by South Korea and the United States that are expected to kick off later this month.
The North has always denounced the drills as provocative rehearsals for invasion and has in the past offered a moratorium on further nuclear and missile testing in exchange for their cancellation -- a trade-off promoted by Beijing, but repeatedly rejected by Washington and Seoul.
Some analysts said Kim was seeking a similar quid-pro-quo this time around, using the Guam missile threat as leverage.
"This is a direct invitation to talk reciprocal constraints on exercises and missile launches," said Adam Mount, senior fellow at the Center for American Progress.
John Delury of Yonsei University in Seoul said Kim was "de-escalating, putting Guam plan on ice" -- at least for now.
The United States and South Korea insist their annual joint exercises are purely defensive, and cannot be linked to the North's missile programme, which violates a host of UN resolutions.
North Korea Tuesday also appeared to link the fate of its US prisoners to ongoing tensions, saying now is not the right time to discuss their release.
Three Americans, accused of various crimes against the state, are behind bars in the hermit nation.
- 'Fire and fury' -
The North Korean announcement prompted joy in Guam, where officials described themselves as "almost ecstatic that Kim Jong-Un has backed off".
Tensions have been mounting since the North tested two intercontinental ballistic missiles last month, which appeared to bring much of the US within range.
Responding to the tests, US President Donald Trump warned Pyongyang of "fire and fury like the world has never seen", while the North responded with the Guam threat.
South Korean President Moon Jae-In weighed in on Tuesday, saying Seoul would avoid a second Korean War at all costs and "no one may decide to take military action without the consent of the Republic of Korea".
But he added there could be no dialogue before the North halts its "nuclear and missile provocations".
Moon's comments came after US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson penned an opinion piece in the The Wall Street Journal insisting that America has "no interest" in regime change in Pyongyang.
"We do not seek an excuse to garrison US troops north of the Demilitarized Zone," they wrote. "We have no desire to inflict harm on the long-suffering North Korean people, who are distinct from the hostile regime in Pyongyang."
Mattis and Tillerson called on China, which is North Korea's main trading partner, to take advantage of an "unparalleled opportunity" to assert its influence on Pyongyang, and bring its errant neighbour to heel.
New York (AFP) Aug 11, 2017
Memories of war haunt elderly Koreans in New York when they think about the gathering nuclear crisis between their homeland and the country they adopted in search of the American dream. Four million people perished in the 1950-53 Korean War between a US-backed South and China-backed North Korea. It was a bloodbath that ended in stalemate and today lies behind diplomatic panic, depressed mark ... read more
Learn about nuclear weapons doctrine and defense at SpaceWar.com
Learn about missile defense at SpaceWar.com
All about missiles at SpaceWar.com
Learn about the Superpowers of the 21st Century at SpaceWar.com
|The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2017 - Space Media Network. All websites are published in Australia and are solely subject to Australian law and governed by Fair Use principals for news reporting and research purposes. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA news reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. All articles labeled "by Staff Writers" include reports supplied to Space Media Network by industry news wires, PR agencies, corporate press officers and the like. Such articles are individually curated and edited by Space Media Network staff on the basis of the report's information value to our industry and professional readership. Advertising does not imply endorsement, agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement|