Top US envoy begins Asia tour amid North Korea crisis
- Author: Leroy Wright Mar 18, 2017,
Mar 18, 2017, 14:24
But none of these issues are as fraught or potentially unsafe as the situation with Pyongyang, which seems to have accelerated its nuclear program in the last few months with the aim of perfecting a nuclear weapon and the means to deliver it as far as the US.
In recent comments, China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi implied the United States and North Korea were equally at fault for the latest crisis and moving towards a "head-on collision". In the final months of the Obama administration, USA officials warned it would blacklist Chinese companies and banks that do illicit business with North Korea if Beijing failed to enforce United Nations sanctions against Pyongyang.
He also said the USA will continue to work closely with Japan and South Korea in countering the North Korean threat, but also extended an olive branch to the country's people.
Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said at a briefing Thursday that Beijing stood by its call for a halt to joint US-South Korean exercises, to lower tensions.
"We will be having discussions with China as to appropriate actions we believe they might consider taking that will be helpful to bring North Korea to a different attitude", he said.
The Commerce Department last week announced that a Chinese tech firm, ZTE, would pay a $1.2 billion fine for violating sanctions by selling equipment to Iran and North Korea.
Japanese officials appeared quick to concur with Tillerson that diplomacy was not an option with North Korea, and with South Korea having been quick to lash out at Chinese proposals for trust-building concessions, it is unclear what might bring the United States to the negotiating table in the future.
The Trump administration has argued the China should use its vast economic leverage over North Korea to force the Kim Jong Un regime to cease its weapons development program.
On Saturday Tillerson will head to Beijing to press it to do more.
"The radar is not aimed at just us", Pak said.
He warned that USA investments in China would bear the brunt of any trade war, and argued: 'I believe whatever differences we have, we can still sit down and talk to each other and work together to find solutions'.
Beijing shares USA concerns over Pyongyang's attempts to build an arsenal of nuclear devices but has also blamed Washington for escalating tensions.
Tillerson is expected to seek assurances that South Korea will continue to honor an agreement to deploy the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system, the first parts of which arrived in South Korea earlier this month.
Washington and Seoul say it is for purely defensive purposes, but Beijing fears it could undermine its own nuclear deterrent and has reacted with fury, imposing a series of measures seen as economic retaliation in the South.
"All options are on the table", Tillerson told a news conference in Seoul.
Tillerson touched down by helicopter at Camp Bonifas, a US base about 438 yards from the Demilitarized Zone, a Cold War vestige created after the Korean War ended in 1953.
Instead, Tillerson invited a single reporter from a startup news site with a conservative bent. China remains the North's most powerful ally.
Washington has said all options, including military, are on the table in its review of policies toward North Korea.
The Korean People's Army had antiquated equipment, limited resources, and could not sustain a conventional conflict for a long period of time, he said, but: "They would fight to defend their country if it were under attack".
The U.S. retains almost 30,000 troops in South Korea, and almost 50,000 in neighboring Japan.
Earlier, he landed at Osan air base in South Korea from Japan and transferred to a Blackhawk helicopter for his trip to the DMZ, where he met the commander of the 28,000 United States troops stationed in the South to defend the country.
Tillerson also held talks with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and had dinner with Kishida.