Tillerson calls for 'new approach' to
North Korea, no details
Send a link to a friend
[March 16, 2017]
By Elaine Lies and Kiyoshi Takenaka
TOKYO (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of State
Rex Tillerson said on Thursday the escalating threat from North Korea's
nuclear program showed a clear need for a "new approach," although he
stopped short of detailing what steps the Trump administration would
Tillerson was speaking at a news conference following talks with
Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida in Tokyo, the start of his first
trip to Asia as secretary of state. It was the first time Tillerson, a
former oil executive with no prior diplomatic experience, had taken
questions from the media since coming into office in early February.
Two decades of diplomatic and other efforts, including aid given to
North Korea by the United States, had failed to achieve the goal of
denuclearizing Pyongyang, he said.
"So we have 20 years of failed approach," Tillerson said. "That includes
a period where the United States has provided $1.35 billion in
assistance to North Korea as an encouragement to take a different
He added: "In the face of this ever-escalating threat, it is clear that
a different approach is required. Part of the purpose of my visit to the
region is to exchange views on a new approach."
Tillerson visits South Korea and China later in the week. The New York
Times reported on Wednesday he will warn Chinese officials that the
United States would increase missile defenses in the region and target
Chinese banks if Beijing does not constrain North Korea's nuclear and
State Department spokesman Mark Toner said on Wednesday that Tillerson
will have "substantive, hard" talks with U.S. partners in Asia on next
steps in dealing with North Korea, but his visit was not likely to
produce an immediate specific response.
In Beijing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying repeated
Foreign Minister Wang Yi's proposal last week that North Korea should
stop its nuclear and missile tests and South Korea and the United States
should stop joint military drills and seek talks instead.
"We welcome all parties, including the United States, to come up with
their own proposals," Hua told a daily news briefing. "As long as these
proposals are conducive to ameliorating the present tense situation on
the Korean peninsula and are beneficial to maintaining regional peace
and stability ... China will have an open attitude."
Tillerson made it clear he expected China, North Korea's sole major
ally, to do more.
"We will be having discussions with China as to further actions we
believe they might consider taking that would be helpful to bringing
North Korea to a different attitude about its future need for nuclear
weapons," he said.
Tillerson had not previously answered questions from reporters during
his six weeks in office, and his comments in Japan were eagerly watched
by international observers for indications as to what they meant for the
Trump administration's foreign policy.
Japan is seeking clues to Washington's policies both on North Korea and
China's increasing military and economic clout while hoping to steer
clear of trade rows.
During his stop in Tokyo, Tillerson also met Prime Minister Shinzo Abe
and had dinner with Kishida.
U.S. President Donald Trump made it a hallmark of his presidential
campaign to call on U.S. allies, including Japan, to pay more for
hosting U.S. forces and other elements of American protection.
[to top of second column]
U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (L) shakes hands with Japan's
Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida before their meeting at the foreign
ministry's Iikura guest house in Tokyo, Japan, March 16, 2017.
During the joint news conference with Kishida, Tillerson issued a
far gentler version of that message, first underscoring the
"long-standing" U.S.-Japanese alliance.
"While the security environment in this region can be challenging,
the United States is committed to strengthening our role, and we
welcome an increased Japanese commitment to their roles and
responsibilities in our alliance," he said.
Tillerson is the second member of Trump's cabinet to visit Japan.
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis visited last month, and Vice President
Mike Pence is due to visit in April, underscoring U.S. concerns
surrounding North Korea's missile and nuclear programs. Abe was the
first foreign leader who met Trump after his November election win.
North Korea last week launched four more ballistic missiles and is
working to develop nuclear-tipped missiles that can reach the United
States, in defiance of U.N. Security Council resolutions and
Washington has previously said all options, including military, are
on the table in its review of policies toward North Korea and
Japanese officials are keen to know more details. In the final
months of the Obama administration, U.S. officials warned China it
would blacklist Chinese companies and banks that do illicit business
with North Korea, if Beijing failed to enforce U.N. sanctions
Tillerson's trip to Asia also comes as the United States has begun
deploying the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile
defense system in South Korea, a move that China strongly objects to
because it sees the system's radar as a threat to its security.
Pak Myong Ho, a North Korean embassy official speaking in Beijing on
Thursday, said the THAAD deployment "will destroy the balance in
Northeast Asia and the Pacific region."
"The radar is not aimed at just us," Pak said. "It is also aiming
for China and Russia."
China's assertiveness in the East China Sea, where it has a
territorial row with Japan, and the South China Sea, where it has
disputes with the Philippines and several other Southeast Asian
nations, were also on the agenda during Tillerson's visit.
Tillerson's visit to Tokyo came as Abe's government battles a
domestic scandal over a nationalist school. Following weeks of
questions in parliament about the affair, support for Abe fell five
points to 50 percent, a weekend poll by the Mainichi newspaper
showed, off highs hit after he met Trump in Washington last month.
(Additional reporting by Christine Kim in Seoul, David Brunnstrom in
Washington and Ben Blanchard in Beijing; Writing by Yeganeh Torbati;
Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan and Nick Macfie)
[© 2017 Thomson Reuters. All rights
Copyright 2017 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published,
broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.