UNITED NATIONS – The United States repeated on Friday its readiness to negotiate with North Korea, but made it clear it would only do so if the Pyongyang regime abandons its warlike attitude.
“North Korea must earn its way back to the table,” the head of US diplomacy, Rex Tillerson, said during a ministerial meeting of the UN Security Council.
Earlier this week Tillerson said his country would agree to talks without preconditions, which many analysts interpreted as a step back from the hard-line position maintained by the Donald Trump government.
Until now, Trump has held back from initiating a dialogue, even saying last October that Tillerson was “wasting his time trying to negotiate” with the Kim Jong-un regime.
Though the secretary of state emphasized last Tuesday that a period of calm was needed – without North Korean weapons trials – in order for those negotiations to begin, on Friday it was even clearer after the White House revised his message.
“A sustained cessation of North Korea’s threatening behavior must occur before talks can begin,” Tillerson said in his speech.
China and Russia proposed months ago a compromise to try to restart the dialogue, which would begin with the parallel suspension of North Korea’s missile and nuclear trials and of military exercises in the region by the United States and its allies.
Tillerson again rejected that option and any other that would impose preconditions on his country, but insisted that “we will, in the meantime, keep our channels of communication open.”
“North Korea knows they’re open. They know where the door is. They know where to walk through that door when they want to talk,” he said.
The Security Council meeting, promoted by Japan, had the unexpected participation of Pyongyang, which normally boycotts those sessions.
The North Korean ambassador to the UN, Ja Song Nam, used his presence at the session to denounce the US nuclear arsenal and said it is used to commit “nuclear blackmail” against other nations.
Ja also slammed the US military exercises both in South Korea and all around the coasts of the Korean Peninsula.
The diplomat said North Korea’s nuclear program has defense functions and would only be used to protect his country, as the Charter of the United Nations requires.
In answer to that message, the international community made it clear that it considers North Korea’s military buildup unacceptable and a risk to the peace and security of the world.
“I think we all want to avoid that things get out of control, and that misperceptions and mishandling of situations make us sleepwalk into a war that will have devastating consequences,” said UN General Secretary Antonio Guterres, who criticized Pyongyang’s scorn for the Security Council’s requests.
Tillerson called Friday for more pressure be applied on North Korea in the form of sanctions, and specifically asked China and Russia to do more.