Secretary of State Asks North Korea to Ditch Nuclear Program

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, left,  shakes hands with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, right, at the start of their meeting at Abe's official residence in Tokyo, Japan, Thursday, March 16, 2017. (Franck Robichon/Pool Photo via AP)

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called on North Korea Thursday to abandon its nuclear and ballistic missile programs, saying the isolated nation “need not fear” the United States. Tillerson made that declaration after meeting his Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida in Tokyo, where they discussed possible new approaches in dealing with Pyongyang.

“North Korea and its people need not fear the United States or their neighbors in the region who seek only to live in peace with North Korea,” the secretary of state told a news conference in Tokyo. “With this in mind, the United States calls on North Korea to abandon its nuclear and ballistic missile programs and refrain from any further provocation.”

He was due to meet later Thursday with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Citing recent North Korean missile launches, Tillerson said that “in the face of this ever-escalating threat it is clear that a different approach is required.” He said his trip was intended to get input from other governments.

Tillerson will travel Friday to South Korea and then China on Saturday. Both Tillerson and Kishida urged China use its economic leverage with North Korea to push it to change course. During last year’s election campaign, presidential candidate Donald Trump called into question U.S. security alliances and called for Tokyo and Seoul to contribute more for their defense. Tillerson, however, stressed that cooperation with Japan and South Korea was “critical.”

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