U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has said Washington remains interested in a dialogue with Pyongyang, adding that it is up to North Korean leader Kim Jung Un to decide if he wants to talk to the United States.
“We continue to be interested in trying to find a way to get to dialogue but that’s up to him,” Tillerson said on August 15, after Moscow and Beijing, Pyongyang’s closest ally, pushed for talks to defuse tensions between the United States and North Korea.
North Korea’s threats against the U.S. Pacific territory of Guam have escalated the rhetoric being exchanged between Washington and Pyongyang.
‘Put The Brakes’ On
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi spoke to his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, in a telephone conversation that focused on “ways to get out of the confrontational spiral on the Korean peninsula,” according to Russia’s Foreign Ministry.
A statement said both countries “stressed the lack of any alternative to a political and diplomatic resolution,” a statement said.
China’s Foreign Ministry quoted Wang as telling Lavrov that it was urgent for the United States and North Korea to “put the brakes” on mutually irritating words and actions.
Earlier on August 15, North Korea announced that it had completed plans to fire missiles near Guam but will hold off.
The commander of North Korea’s strategic force is now merely waiting for orders “after rounding off the preparations for the enveloping fire at Guam,” the country’s state media said.
The report added that Kim would watch what “the foolish Yankees” do before taking a decision.
U.S. ally South Korea urged the North to stop provocations and to commit to talks over its nuclear weapons program.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in said Seoul and Washington agreed that the nuclear standoff should “absolutely be solved peacefully.”
‘It Could Escalate’
U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told reporters on August 14 that the United States is prepared to “take out” any missile fired at its territory in what he views as an act of war.
“If they fire at the United States, it could escalate into war very quickly,” Mattis said. “Yes, that’s called war, if they shoot at us.”
He also sought to reassure residents of Guam, home to U.S. military bases and about 160,000 people, that they were well-protected.
If a missile was fired, Mattis said, “we’ll take it out.”
President Donald Trump had threatened Pyongyang with “fire and fury” and said the U.S. nuclear arsenal was “locked and loaded” — referring to a gun loaded with ammunition that is ready to be fired at any time by pulling the trigger.
North Korea, which has already conducted five nuclear tests, launched two intercontinental ballistic missiles in July and claimed it now had the ability to hit the United States.
The UN Security Council on August 5 unanimously imposed new economic sanctions on North Korea, aimed at pressuring Pyongyang to end its nuclear program.
North Korea said the sanctions infringed its sovereignty and warned that it was ready to give Washington a “severe lesson” with what it called its strategic nuclear force in response to any U.S. military action.
Citing U.S. intelligence officials, U.S. media reported last week that Pyongyang had produced a miniaturized nuclear warhead that can fit inside its missiles — a key step in the country’s attempt to become a full-fledged nuclear power.