Tillerson: Diplomacy with North Korea has 'failed'

At a time of multiplying tensions in Asia, Rex Tillerson, the secretary of state, began his first major foreign trip in Japan and said on Thursday that the United States needed a "different approach" to North Korea's escalating nuclear threat, though he declined to give specifics.

The U.S. and China also disagree over U.S. deployment of a missile defense system to South Korea.

Tillerson said he expected a new government would "continue to be supportive" of the deployment, adding it was also meant to protect USA troops in South Korea.

North Korea has accelerated its weapons development, violating multiple U.N. Security Council resolutions and appearing undeterred by tough global sanctions.

Tillerson did not go to the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo to meet staff Thursday morning, as is often customary, but instead stayed in his hotel, where he read and received briefings from embassy officials, a spokesman said.

For the moment, however, relations do appear to still be following the trajectory set by Obama, who focused on exerting pressure on the North through strengthening regional alliances, tougher economic sanctions in response to nuclear tests or missile launches and a flat refusal to talk without Pyongyang first taking concrete moves toward denuclearization.

China is perhaps the last country with significant leverage over North Korea, which has ignored several rounds of UN-backed sanctions targeting its banned nuclear weapons program.

Meanwhile, China has only offered one possible resolution to the Korean conflict: for the USA and South Korea to cease all joint military exercises in exchange for a full stop of all North Korean nuclear operations.

He said the USA does not want a military conflict, "but obviously if North Korea takes actions that threatens South Korean forces or our own forces, that would be met with (an) appropriate response". He insisted that North Korea's growing nuclear power is for peaceful purposes, and insisted that the nation would not use the powers for war.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson visited the world's most heavily armed border, greeting U.S. soldiers on guard near the tense buffer zone between rivals North and South Korea.

"We do not oppose South Korean taking necessary measures to protect its security, but these measures can not be based upon harming the security interests of South Korea's friendly neighbor, China", she said.

During the ministerial consultations, the sides traded views on ways to facilitate coordination under the Donald Trump administration, which is now carrying out a North Korea policy review.

"Secretary Tillerson's comments on North Korea sound like a simplistic version of the past without a clear vision for the future", John Delury, a professor at Yonsei University's Graduate School of International Affairs told CNN.

But since his victory he has twice met with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and has been careful to offer complete support, as Tillerson reiterated. Park was impeached last week, triggering snap elections in early May.

It would put "the United States and its allies into a position where they have no choice but to come in and try and destroy the entire military capability of North Korea", Tack told AFP. He has kept a low profile since assuming his new job and has not attended some meetings with foreign leaders in the Oval Office, leading to speculation that he has little influence within the Trump administration.

So does Trump have some new formula for success?

  • Leroy Wright