The United States Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Tuesday Washington remains ready for talks with North Korea, as Kim Jong Un postponed a threat to fire missiles towards the U.S. Pacific territory of Guam.
“We continue to be interested in finding a way to get to a dialogue, but that’s up to him [Kim Jong Un],” Tillerson said.
While diplomacy deserves a chance, Washington said Pyongyang must stop ballistic missile and nuclear tests before negotiations can begin on denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.
‘Foolish and Stupid Conduct’
“Kim Jong Un, we would like to have talks with him. When the time is right,” said State Department Spokesperson Heather Nauert on Tuesday. “When they show that they are serious about an effort to move towards denuclearization.”
“We have not seen that yet,” added Nauert, citing North Korea’s several nuclear tests last year and two intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) tests in the last month alone.
Analysts said Pyongyang’s ICBM tests on July 4 and July 28 demonstrated its capability of hitting Alaska and the mainland United States.
North Korea’s official news agency KCNA said Tuesday that Kim had received a report from his army on its plans to strike the area around Guam, which is home to a number of U.S. military facilities.
The report said Kim would continue to observe “the foolish and stupid conduct of the Yankees” before making a final decision. But he was also quoted as saying “if the Yankees persist in their extremely dangerous reckless actions” on the Korean Peninsula, the North would follow through with its plans.
US Ready to Defend Itself
Shortly after Pyongyang pulled back from its earlier threat of a missile strike, U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said on Tuesday that Washington stands ready to defend itself should North Korea proceed after all with a missile attack on Guam.
Experts say the crisis in the Korean Peninsula can only be solved diplomatically so that it will not end up in another war in the region. They said China needs to be on board for effective economic leverage.
“The reason is simple, it’s money. China controls 90 to 95 percent of the Korean economy. They have the land border with North Korea. They control the ocean and the sea around it, if they desire to. China can shut down North Korea instantly,” former NATO Commander James Stavridis told VOA’s Serbian service.
“China has choices to make in the time ahead. I hope they chose to stand with the rest of the world and the United States and create a diplomatic outcome here,” Admiral Stavridis said.
On Monday, China moved to tighten economic pressure on North Korea by implementing a new package of U.S. sanctions, stopping the import of coal, iron ore and seafood from North Korea.
‘Trending in Right Direction’
The U.S. sees a gradual change of China’s attitude towards North Korea that Kim’s government is more as a liability than an asset. Washington said China’s recent support for U.N. Security Council actions against North Korea is “trending in the right direction.”
Kim urged the United States to, “show through actions if they wish to ease tensions on the Korean peninsula and prevent a dangerous military clash,” according to the KCNA report.
The statement was an apparent reference to the annual joint U.S.-South Korean military drills that are scheduled to begin next week. Pyongyang considers the drills a dress rehearsal for an invasion of the North, a charge denied by both Washington and Seoul.