U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Washington was still open to negotiations with Pyongyang on Tuesday, speaking to assembled reporters at the State Department.
The remarks come as Washington and Pyongyang took an apparent step back from a slew of threats last week.
“We continue to be interested in trying to find a way to get to dialogue, but that’s up to [Kim Jong Un],” Tillerson said.
North Korea on Tuesday appeared to hold back on plans to launch ballistic missiles at the U.S. territory of Guam, with Kim Jong Un saying he would “watch a little more the foolish and stupid conduct of the Yankees,” before making a decision.
Both Tillerson and U.S. Secretary of Defense also penned an article in the Wall Street Journal over the weekend, saying Washington had little interest in military conflict, regime change, or stationing troops in North Korea.
The two senior staffers also said China should do more to leverage its position as the North’s primary trade partner.
“Tillerson’s calming words, combined with Mattis’s stern warning, helped Pyongyang cut through the fog of President Trump’s bluster,” Ken Gause, a North Korea leadership specialist at the CNA Corporation, told NK News.
Beijing’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs welcomed North Korea’s step back from Guam and the comments from Tillerson and Mattis on Tuesday, though said it was up to the U.S. and the DPRK to solve security issues on the Korean peninsula.
“We hope the words and deeds of various parties shall put out the fire rather than pour fuel on the current tense situation and help various parties to take an important step forward towards the common goal of enhancing mutual trust,” Hua Chunying, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said.
North Korea continues to reject negotiations overtures from both Seoul and Washington, claiming it will not bargain with its nuclear program, a U.S. prerequisite for starting talks.
“Trump will continue to pursue his emergent strategy that bounces freely between threats and enticements. But, at the end of the day, North Korea is not going to bite on engagement unless the U.S. puts something significant on the table,” Gause added.
Despite last week’s tensions, South Korean President Moon Jae-in also voiced Seoul’s opposition to a war, saying on Tuesday that military options could not proceed without the South’s consent.
“No country can determine to take military action without the consent of the Republic of Korea,” Moon said during a speech marking the 72nd anniversary of the South’s independence from the Japanese Empire.
Edited by Oliver Hotham
Featured image: State Department