United States Secretary of State Rex Tillerson appeared to make a peace overture to North Korea early today, welcoming what he called the restraint it had shown recently in its weapons programmes and saying a path could be opening for dialogue “some time in the near future”.
“We have had no missile launches or provocative acts on the part of North Korea since the unanimous adoption of the United Nations Security Council resolution,” Tillerson told reporters, referring to UN sanctions on North Korea agreed on August 5.
“We hope that this is the beginning of this signal that we’ve been looking for that they are ready to restrain their level of tensions, they’re ready to restrain their provocative acts, and that perhaps we are seeing our pathway to sometime in the near future having some dialogue,” Tillerson added.
Tillerson said he was “pleased” to see Pyongyang had “demonstrated some level of restraint that we’ve not seen in the past”.
“We need to see more on their part, but I want to acknowledge the steps they’ve taken thus far.”
North Korea has conducted two nuclear tests and dozens of missile tests since the beginning of last year.
Its last missile test was of a second intercontinental ballistic missile on July 29. This put the US mainland in range, prompting heated exchanges of threats and rhetoric that raised fears of a new conflict on the Korean peninsula.
US President Donald Trump warned North Korea this month it would face “fire and fury” if it threatened the US. Pyongyang responded by threatening to fire missiles toward the US Pacific island territory of Guam but later said it was holding off while it waited to see what the US would do next.
Tillerson’s remarks came just after the US announced new North Korea-related sanctions early today, targeting Chinese and Russian firms and individuals for supporting Pyongyang’s weapons programmes.
China and Russia backed the UN sanctions but have urged the US to enter dialogue with North Korea in return for a freeze in weapons testing.
Washington has long argued that any future talks with North Korea must have the aim of it giving up its nuclear weapons, something North Korea has rejected as long as the United States maintains a “hostile policy” towards it.
North Korea’s envoy to a disarmament conference in Geneva reiterated this stance earlier overnight. Reuters