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US willing to talk to N. Korea: Tillerson

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Washington: The US wishes to sit down and hold dialogue with North Korea, but only if the Communist nation gives up its pursuit of nuclear weapons, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has said.

Days after North Korea on Sunday launched its second intercontinental ballistic missile in a month, Tillerson on Tuesday said Washington was “responding to an unacceptable threat to the US”.

The official said at a press conference here that the US was not Pyongyang’s “enemy”. “We hope that at some point they will begin to understand that and we would like to sit and have a dialogue with them.”

He reiterated the US does not “seek a reunification of the peninsula”.

“We do not seek regime change… We do not seek an excuse to send our military north of the 38th parallel,” Tillerson said, speaking to North Korea directly.

The missile launched by North Korea travelled about 1,000 km before splashing down into the sea, Pentagon spokesman Jeff Davis said in a statement.

North Korea said the test-firing aimed to “finally confirm the overall technological specifications of the weapon system of Hwasong-14 capable of carrying large-sized heavy nuclear warhead, including its maximum range”.

A willingness to talk if North Korea agrees to pursue denuclearisation was also Obama administration policy, though it was never successful in getting Pyongyang to the table.

Tillerson is travelling to Asia this week, where he will continue his drive to increase “peaceful pressure on the regime in North Korea to have them develop a willingness to sit and talk to us and others”.

But he made it clear that there was no possibility of talks if North Korea did not abandon its nuclear programme.

He said China has a particular role to play, as it accounts for 90 per cent of trade with the Communist nation.

Trump had emphasized that point as he courted Chinese President Xi Jinping during a state visit and pressured Beijing to use its influence on Pyongyang.

Trump had recently expressed disappointment that Beijing had not applied as much pressure as he would like or caused a change in North Korea’s behaviour.

Arguing that China sees eye-to-eye with the US about the threat posed by Pyongyang’s aggressive weapons development, Tillerson said: “We don’t blame the Chinese for the situation in North Korea.”

“But we do believe China has a unique and special relationship,” he added. “We continue to call upon them to use that influence with North Korea to create the conditions where we can have a productive dialogue.”

IANS

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