Tillerson promises new policy on North Korea after ’20 years of a failed approach’

March 16, 2017


US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called for a new approach toward North Korea Thursday, saying all the efforts of the past 20 years have failed.

Tillerson was speaking in Tokyo, ahead of stops in Seoul and Beijing, where Chinese leaders are expected to present their own plan to defuse escalating tensions on the Korean peninsula.

“The diplomatic and other efforts of the past 20 years to bring North Korea to a point of denuclearization have failed. So we have 20 years of a failed approach,” Tillerson said at a news conference with Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida.

China will formally present its own proposal to Tillerson on Saturday, a senior Chinese diplomat told CNN Thursday.

The Chinese plan calls for North Korea to suspend its ballistic missile tests and nuclear activities, and for the United States and South Korea to halt large-scale military exercises that annually antagonize Pyongyang.

“(North Korea) would like to see the Americans move first and take some actions first to show their sincerity, and vice versa,” Xiao Qian, the director general of the Asian Affairs Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, told CNN in an exclusive interview.

“So China’s proposal is, why not do these things at the same time?”

This is the second time in as many weeks that China has floated this plan. A similar proposal by Foreign Minister Wang Yi was rejected by the US State Department last week.

“There’s no equivalence between North Korea’s illegal missile and nuclear activities and what is our lawful, longstanding joint security exercises with our allies in the region,” said Mark Toner, the acting State Department spokesman, in response to Wang’s initial pitch.

The North Koreans don’t seem to be buying it either. In a rare and hastily called press conference Thursday, Pak Myong Ho, the chargĂ© d’affaires at the North Korean embassy in Beijing, also rebuffed Wang’s proposal.

“Our stance is that since the US and its followers continue their nuclear threats and intimidation — in the form of their annual military drills — on the doorstep of DPRK (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea), we will continue to strengthen our defense and preemptive strike capabilities,” he said.

The new path?

Speaking side by side in Tokyo, Tillerson and Japan’s Kishida reiterated their countries would stand united against North Korea’s provocations.

While Kishida said Japan would assume a larger responsibility in the alliance, Tillerson said it was time for the US to stop throwing money at a solution that’s not working.

“The United States provided $1.35 billion dollars in assistance to North Korea as an encouragement to take a different pathway. That encouragement has been met with further development of nuclear capabilities, more missile launches, including those of the recent February 11th and March 5th,” he said.

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