Tillerson urges lull in North Korea 'threatening behaviour' before any talks

Tillerson urges lull in North Korea 'threatening behaviour' before any talks
U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson addresses Japan's Minister of Foreign Affairs Taro Kono (not pictured) about North Korea's nuclear program at the United Nations headquarters in New York City, U.S., December 15, 2017. REUTERS/Stephanie Keith
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By Michelle Nichols

UNITEDNATIONS (Reuters) – U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Friday called for a “sustained cessation of North Korea’s threatening behaviour” before talks could occur between Washington and Pyongyang, 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 denuclearization is achieved,” Tillerson told a meeting of the United Nations Security Council on Pyongyang’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs.

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.

The top U.S. 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 U.S. mainland with a nuclear-tipped missile, something most experts say it has still not proved.

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

U.N. 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.

(Writing by Alistair Bell; Editing by Bernadette Baum)

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