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Tillerson Calls for New Approach to North Korea

April 28, 2017 (EIRNS)—U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, in an address to the UN Security Council today, issued a call for a new approach to North Korea, an approach that increases diplomatic and economic pressure on Pyongyang but that still holds out the possibility of an improvement in conditions in North Korea.

"For too long, the international community has been reactive in addressing North Korea. Those days must come to an end," Tillerson said. "Failing to act now on the most pressing security issue in the world may bring catastrophic consequences." He argued that, because of the progress North Korea has made in its nuclear program, there is no more time to act and therefore additional pressure must be applied now.

"Our goal is not regime change. Nor do we desire to threaten the North Korean people or destabilize the Asia Pacific region," Tillerson went on. He noted that over the years the U.S. has withdrawn its own nuclear weapons from the Korean peninsula, and,

"Since 1995, the United States has provided over $1.3 billion dollars in aid to North Korea, and we look forward to resuming our contributions once the D.P.R.K. begins to dismantle its nuclear weapons and missile technology programs.... North Korea must take concrete steps to reduce the threat that its illegal weapons programs pose to the United States and our allies before we can even consider talks."

Tillerson called on UN member states to take three actions, beginning today. First, that UN resolutions concerning North Korea’s nuclear program be fully implemented. Secondly, the United States is calling on other countries to downgrade or suspend their diplomatic relations with Pyongyang, as a way of constraining the resources the government able to obtain for its nuclear program. Thirdly, North Korea’s financial isolation must be increased by additional sanctions that target entities and individuals that support North Korea’s nuclear and weapons programs. China is particularly important in this because of the "unique" economic leverage it has over the North, Tillerson said.

"The U.S. and China have held very productive exchanges on this issue, and we look forward to further actions that build on what China has already done,"

Tillerson said.

Prior to addressing the UNSC, Tillerson, in an interview with National Public Radio, renounced regime change as an option and opened the door to a new pathway in relations with North Korea. The U.S. goal in the peninsula, he said, is full and complete denuclearization, and that is the only U.S. goal.

"We don’t have any red lines," he said. As for how we get to the goal, he said,

"You know, if you listen to the North Koreans and the regime of Pyongyang, their reason for having nuclear weapons is, they believe it is their only pathway to secure the ongoing existence of their regime. What we hope to convince them is: You do not need these weapons to secure the existence of your regime."

U.S. objectives are very clear, but so is what U.S. objectives are not.

"[W]e do not seek regime change, we do not seek a collapse of the regime, we do not seek an accelerated reunification of the peninsula,"

he said. "We seek a denuclearized Korean Peninsula—and again that is entirely consistent with the objectives of others in the region as well."