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Tillerson unveils new US approach to North Korea after 20 years of failed diplomacy

At the same time, Tillerson noted that "North Korea and its people need not fear the United States"
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson EPA/FRANCK ROBICHON/POOL
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson

TOKYO, March 16. /TASS/. US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who is currently on an official visit to Japan, held talks with his Japanese counterpart Fumio Kishida on Thursday to focus on North Korea amid its recent launches of ballistic missiles.

Speaking at a joint press conference, Tillerson said the efforts to denuclearize North Korea over the past 20 years have failed to produce the desired result. "In the face of this ever-escalating threat, it is clear that a different approach is required," he said.

At the same time, Tillerson noted that "North Korea and its people need not fear the United States or their neighbours in the region who seek only to live in peace with North Korea."

Japan’s top diplomat said Tokyo and Washington are not planning to put up with North Korea’s nuclear and missile program. "We exchanged views on the situation in the region, including on the Korean Peninsula," he stressed. "On North Korea, we share stance that we cannot absolutely accept Pyongyang’s missile and nuclear programs."

The sides also noted the role of China in the North Korean issue. "China is a major source of economic trade and activity with North Korea. So we look to China to fulfill its obligations and fully implement the sanctions called for in the UN resolutions," Tillerson said.

Japanese-US alliance

Tokyo says that Tillerson’s visit confirms the importance of Japanese-US ties. "His visit is the first as the Secretary of State to the Asia-Pacific Region. This speaks about the importance of our bilateral relations," Kishida said.

Tillerson said the alliance with Japan is a "cornerstone of peace and stability of the Asia-Pacific region." He also emphasized the importance of trilateral cooperation between the US, Japan and South Korea.

Meeting with Abe and Russia policy

After talks with Kishida, the US Secretary of State met with Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Besides issues of cooperation between Tokyo, Washington and Seoul to solve North Korea’s nuclear issue, the sides discussed Japan’s policy towards Russia and the US stance on this.

"At the meeting, PM Abe said that he makes efforts to solve the issues of the Northern Territories (Russia’s Southern Kuril Islands) and is in talks with President (Vladimir) Putin with the goal of signing a peace treaty. Tillerson expressed the understanding of this policy," Japan’s Foreign Ministry said.

After Japan, on March 17 Tillerson will pay a one-day visit to South Korea to meet with the acting President Hwang Kyo-ahn and Foreign Minister Yun Byung-Se. The sides will discuss cooperation on North Korea’s nuclear program and the deployment of the US THAAD missile defense system to South Korea.

Despite protests of South Korea’s citizens, the first two launchers of the system have been already delivered to the military base near Pyeongtaek, some 70 km from Seoul. The system is expected to go operational in one or two months.

China, which has been criticizing the deployment of the system, will be the last stop on the tour. Tillerson will visit the country on March 18. The trip is aimed at preparing for the meeting between US President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping. US mass media reports said the talks may take place on April 6-7. Tillerson is also expected to meet with China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi, Premier of the State Council Li Keqiang and State Councilor Yang Jiechi.