US says North Korea must ‘earn way back to the table’



US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Friday said the United States would not accept any preconditions for diplomatic talks with North Korea.

But he urged the country to carry out a “sustained cessation” of weapons testing to allow the two countries to hold talks about Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile programmes.

He earlier called for a “sustained cessation of North Korea’s threatening behaviour” before the possible talks could occur, but did not specify a length of time for a lull.

“North Korea must earn its way back to the table. The pressure campaign must and will continue until denuclearisation is achieved,” Tillerson told a meeting of the United Nations Security Council on Pyongyang’s nuclear and ballistic missile programmes.

Tillerson had raised hopes this week that the United States and North Korea could negotiate to resolve a standoff over Pyongyang’s development of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles.

Not the time for talks

The top US diplomat said on Tuesday that the United States was “ready to talk any time North Korea would like to talk,” but the White House distanced itself from Tillerson’s remarks and said that now is not the time for talks.

North Korea has made clear it has little interest in negotiations with the United States until it has developed the ability to hit the US mainland with a nuclear-tipped missile, something most experts say it has still not proved.

Tillerson also called on China and Russia to increase pressure on North Korea by going beyond the implementation of UN sanctions. The Security Council has ratcheted up sanctions on North Korea over its weapons programs since 2006.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told the Security Council on Friday it was time to immediately re-establish and strengthen communication channels with North Korea, including inter-Korean and military-to-military channels, to reduce the risk of a misunderstanding escalating into conflict.

“While all concerned seek to avoid an accidental escalation leading to conflict, the risk is being multiplied by misplaced overconfidence, dangerous narratives and rhetoric, and the lack of communication channels,” Guterres said.

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