The Latest: Tillerson backtracks on NKorea stance
Dec. 15, 2017
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Latest on Secretary of State Rex Tillerson's comments on North Korea (all times local):
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has backtracked from an early offer of unconditional talks with North Korea.
Tillerson told the U.N. Security Council on Friday that "North Korea must earn its way back to the table."
Tillerson floated the idea of talks without preconditions earlier in the week during a "period of quiet" in North Korean weapons tests. He was quickly contradicted by the White House.
Tillerson said Friday that diplomatic discussions must be preceded by a "sustained cessation" of the North's threatening behavior.
He said the campaign of economic and diplomatic pressure on North Korea "must and will continue until denuclearization is achieved."
Tillerson added: "We will in the meantime keep our channels of communication open."
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is offering his "good offices" so that North Korea's "alarming" and accelerating nuclear and missile program does not accidentally escalate into conflict.
The U.N. chief warned at a ministerial meeting of the U.N. Security Council on Friday that "the risk is being multiplied by misplaced over-confidence, dangerous narratives and rhetoric, and the lack of communication channels."
Guterres urged an immediate re-establishment and strengthening of communication, saying it was "critical to lower the risk of miscalculation or misunderstanding and reduce tensions in the region."
North Korea, which in the past has boycotted almost all Security Council meetings where its nuclear program is discussed, is expected to speak during Friday's open session.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is criticizing China over its oil supplies to North Korea and Russia for using North Korean laborers.
Tillerson called on the two world powers with the closest economic ties to North Korea to increase pressure over the pariah nation's nuclear and missile programs, and go beyond full implementation of U.N. sanctions.
Tillerson said that continuing to allow North Korean laborers to toil in "slave-like conditions" for wages used to fund nuclear weapons "calls into question Russia's dedication as a partner for peace."
He said that with crude oil still flowing into North Korean refineries, the U.S. also questions China's commitment to "solving an issue that has serious implications for the security of its own citizens."
Tillerson was addressing the U.N. Security Council Friday.