US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has arrived in South Korea determined to find a “new approach” to North Korea after two decades of ‘failed efforts’ at its denuclearization. What that may mean is open to conjecture.
Tillerson arrived at the heavily fortified border with North Korea, the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), on Friday. The US Secretary of State said that 20 years of diplomatic efforts in relation to North Korea had “come to nothing.”
“In the face of this ever-escalating threat, it is clear that a different approach is required,” he told a news conference, his first as secretary of state. “Part of the purpose of my visit to the region is to exchange views on a new approach.”
He noted a period when the US provided North Korea with $1.35 billion (1.28 billion euros) in assistance “to take a different pathway,” adding that it had not worked.
Tillerson and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe agreed this week that their two countries should share strategic goals to deal with Pyongyang’s growing nuclear missile threat.
Threats from the North
North Korea has a long-standing ambition to become a nuclear power and conducted its first underground atomic test in 2006, in the face of global opposition.
Four more tests have followed, two of them last year.
Pyongyang has continued to defy the international community, even after two rounds of UN-backed sanctions, and last week test-fired a salvo of missiles that fell in waters off Japan.
South Korea, meanwhile, has agreed to deploy a US Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile system in South Korea.
After visiting the DMZ, Tillerson is due to meet Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se and Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn, who is also acting president.
Tillerson began his first Asian visit as secretary of state in Japan on Wednesday and travels to China on Saturday.
‘Beijing could do more’
Washington has been pushing Beijing to do more to help reduce North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs.
Tillerson is expected to tell the Chinese leadership that the US intends to increase missile defenses in the region, despite China’s opposition, a US official told the news agency Reuters in Washington.
He will also press the North’s key diplomatic protector and trade partner to back tougher sanctions. Beijing meanwhile has been angered by the deployment of the THAAD missile defence system in the South.
The South China Seas dispute
During his Senate confirmation hearing for secretary of state, Tillerson compared China’s island-building and deployment of military assets to Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea and suggesting China’s access to the islands should not be allowed.
The topic is likely to be high on the agenda when Tillerson visits Beijing for talks with top officials on Saturday and Sunday.
China, the Philippines, Vietnam, Taiwan, Malaysia and Brunei contest ownership of the South China Sea, which straddles one of the world’s busiest sea lanes and is believed to sit atopvast deposits of oil and gas.
jbh/rt (Reuters, AP, AFP)
Tags: ballistic missiles, Brunei, China, Communist Party's official People's Daily, denuclearization, diplomacy has failed on North Korea, Donald Trump, Japan, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Malaysia, missile defenses, Moon Jae-in, new approach on North Korea, North Korea, North Korea's nuclear and missile programs, nuclear-tipped missiles, Philippines, Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn, South China Sea, South Korea, Taiwan, Thaad, throwing of dirty water, U.S., U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, U.S. Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Vietnam