Tillerson wants N.K. to trust U.S. promise of no hostility, refrain from nuclear, missile tests

May 19, 2017

By Chang Jae-soon

WASHINGTON, May 18 (Yonhap) — The United States wants North Korea to trust its promise of no hostility and conduct no more nuclear or missile tests before Washington can consider opening talks with the communist nation, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was quoted as saying Thursday.

The remarks, made in a meeting with South Korea’s special presidential envoy Hong Seok-hyun, are the latest in a series of signs that the U.S. may be moving toward dialogue and engagement after months of exchanging saber-rattling and harsh rhetoric with Pyongyang.

“The most impressive thing that I heard (from Tillerson) was that sanctions and pressure are not by themselves aimed at harassing North Korea, but are designed to create an opportunity for North Korea’s development through opening its doors and scrapping its nuclear program,” Hong said.

Tillerson was also quoted as saying he hopes the North will trust the U.S. despite what it considers the burden of risks involved in doing so. He also said there are many companies willing to invest in North Korea and if the North makes the right choice, it will be good for its development, according to Hong.

A member of Hong’s delegation, who requested anonymity, also quoted Tillerson as saying that the U.S. meant it when it said it seeks no regime change, no invasion of the North and it will guarantee the North’s system.

Tillerson also said that the U.S. sends its messages only through public channels and the North shouldn’t inquire about U.S. intentions “through back channels,” according to the official.

Should the North want talks with the U.S., Tillerson said that Pyongyang should refrain from conducting nuclear or missile tests for a certain period of time so as to create the right atmosphere for talks, according to the official.

Tillerson made clear that military options can come only after a number of other steps, the official said.

On China’s opposition to the deployment of the U.S. THAAD missile defense system in South Korea, Tillerson said Beijing appears to be relaxing sanctions it imposed on the South Korean conglomerate Lotte Group that provided land for the THAAD battery.

Hong arrived in Washington on Wednesday and paid a visit to President Donald Trump at the White House. During the meeting, Trump expressed hope for working closely together with Moon to strengthen the alliance and resolve the North Korean nuclear issue, Hong said.

Trump also told the delegation that he is willing to make peace through engagement with Pyongyang if conditions are right, though he wouldn’t hold talks for the sake of talks.

Hong also held a separate one-on-one meeting with National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster to discuss pending issues between the two countries, including nuclear and missile tensions with North Korea and the deployment of THAAD.

On Thursday, Hong held a series of meetings with U.S. Congress leaders, including Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO) and Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD), as well as Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and Rep. Ted Yoho (R-FL).

U.S. President Donald Trump poses for a photo with South Korea's presidential envoy Hong Seok-hyun, Vice President Mike Pence, National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster and South Korean Ambassador Ahn Ho-young during a meeting at the Oval Office on May 17, 2017. (Photo courtesy of the White House)U.S. President Donald Trump poses for a photo with South Korea’s presidential envoy Hong Seok-hyun, Vice President Mike Pence, National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster and South Korean Ambassador Ahn Ho-young during a meeting at the Oval Office on May 17, 2017. (Photo courtesy of the White House)

jschang@yna.co.kr

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