US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has said that North Korea must stop its “threatening behaviour” before diplomatic talks between the two countries can resume.
Tillerson, speaking at the United Nations Security Council in New York on Friday, accused North Korean leader Kim Jong-un of conducting “unlawful missile launches and testing activities”.
“A sustained cessation of North Korea’s threatening behaviour must occur before talks can begin,” he said, adding: ” North Korea must earn its way back to the table.”
Tillerson had declared the US ready to engage with Pyongyang “without precondition”, at the Atlantic Council in Washington, DC, on December 12.
In response to Tillerson’s comments, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders reiterated that Trump’s views on North Korea remain unchanged.
“North Korea is acting in an unsafe way … North Korea’s actions are not good for anyone and certainly not good for North Korea,” she said in a statement to reporters later on December 12.
But, according to Tillerson, the state department and US president were unified in their approach to dealing with the North Korean leader.
“The President’s policy on North Korea is quite clear, and there is no daylight at all between the president’s policy and the pursuit of that policy,” he said.
“We are going to lead this pressure campaign, we’re going to unite the international community, and we’re going to keep the pressure as much as we can and increase it where possible.
“That is intended to lead to diplomatic talks. In the meantime, the president has been very clear: Militarily, we are going to be prepared should something go wrong. And our military is prepared.”
Friday’s session was called after North Korea test-launched its most powerful intercontinental ballistic missile yet on November 29.
The missile reached an altitude of 4,500km, with analysts estimating it could fly a distance of 13,000km – potentially giving North Korea the ability to strike any part of continental United States with its nuclear weapons.
Trump threatened to impose “major sanctions” on the communist country following the test.
However, US efforts to encourage fellow UNSC members China and Russia to exert additional pressure beyond existing resolutions on North Korea failed on Friday, with both countries refusing to do so.
Tillerson has said the US “would like to see” China stop supplying oil to North Korea in order to drive the government in Pyongyang towards diplomatic talks.
Chinese envoy Wu Haitao called for all parties to exercise restraint, and said Beijing is committed to opposing North Korea’s pursuit of developing nuclear weapons through the implementation of existing UNSC resolutions.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told the council that diplomacy is “the only pathway to sustainable peace and denuclearisation”.
“We must do everything we can to reach that objective and avoid a level of danger that would be unpredictable in its trajectory and catastrophic in its consequences,” he said.
Pyongyang says it needs a functioning “state nuclear force” to prevent “invasion and plunder” by the US, which has 28,500 troops stationed in neighbouring South Korea, a legacy of the 1950-53 Korean War.