North Korean Issue Repeatedly Raised on Tillerson's Asia Visit

Ivan Schwartz
March 21, 2017

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson plans to skip an April 5-6 meeting of North Atlantic Treaty Organisation foreign ministers for a U.S. visit by the Chinese president and will travel to Russian Federation later in the month, U.S. officials said on Monday, a step allies may see as putting Moscow's concerns ahead of theirs. "All options are on the table", particularly if North Korea continues making advances in its ballistic missile and nuclear weapons technologies, Tillerson said last week at a news conference in Seoul. Preventing it outright would probably require a military strike on North Korean facilities, something the United States has considered an option of last resort because it would nearly certainly result in an attack on South Korea and USA forces stationed there, perhaps with chemical or biological weapons.

Tillerson's remarks reflected growing agitation in Washington that a tougher stance on North Korea is required. North Korea has amassed a huge nuclear stockpile and appears on the brink of being able to strike the U.S. mainland and USA allies in Asia.

In South Korea, the secretary of state did not rule out the use of military force against the North Koreans.

"So I think we need to have a good defense".

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However, some experts argue that stronger actions are not necessary at this time. "The DPRK has the will and capability to fully respond to any war the USA would like to ignite", a spokesman of the North's ministry said, according to Pyongyang's Korean Central News Agency.

"The joint interests of China and the United States far outweigh the differences, and cooperation is the only correct choice for us both", Xi added, in comments carried by China's Foreign Ministry. However, officials say all sides must work to reduce tensions in the area and negotiations should be restarted. Three of the four landed in waters within Japan's exclusive economic zone.

Tillerson has described the past 20 years of US policy toward North Korea as a failure and vowed a comprehensive policy review under US President Donald Trump. Jinping is most likely to stay at Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida.

Tillerson told Xi that Trump looks forward to increasing understanding between the two countries and "the opportunity for a visit in the future".

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