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Tillerson vows 'new approach' to N. Korea while keeping all options on table

2017/02/09 11:17

By Chang Jae-soon

WASHINGTON, Feb. 8 (Yonhap) -- U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said he would formulate "a new approach to proactively address" threats from North Korea while keeping all options on the table, including the threat of military force.

Tillerson made the remark in a written answer to questions from Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD) before his confirmation as top American diplomat, stressing that the North's threats will continue unless a new strategy is adopted.

"North Korea is one of the leading threats to regional and global security. If confirmed, I will work closely with my interagency colleagues to develop a new approach to proactively address the multitude of threats that North Korea poses to its neighbors and the international community," Tillerson said in the statement.

Tillerson said that foremost among those challenges are the North's continuing pursuit of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles, which pose a direct threat to the United States. Additionally, there are the human rights abuses, the continuation of illicit activity and the risk of a humanitarian crisis that could engulf the Korean Peninsula.

"These challenges will continue to worsen if a new strategy is not adopted. In preparing a new strategy to address these concerns, the United States should keep all options on the table, from the threat of military force to the willingness to remain open to diplomacy," he said.

In particular, the threat or use of sanctions, including secondary sanctions, may be necessary to force North Korean leaders, and those that support them, to "reassess the costs or benefits of continuing current policies."

   "Key to this strategy is working closely with U.S. allies and partners, particularly South Korea and Japan, to ensure close coordination and execution of this strategy. In addition, the United States should look to work with China and Russia to the greatest extent possible in order to increase pressure on North Korea," he said.

Tillerson said the North's leadership should "have no doubt that the United States is prepared to use all elements of our national power to prevent it from posing a nuclear threat to our homeland," in response to being asked if he supported military action when North Korea appears set to test-launch an intercontinental ballistic missile.

Tillerson reacted negatively to the possibility of holding direct negotiations with the North, saying the entire world opposes the North's nuclear pursuit and the U.N. Security Council has adopted two sets of "extremely harsh sanctions" in response to the North's nuclear tests.

"The United States should focus on strengthening the impact of that global consensus, including by intensifying Pyongyang's isolation and pressing key countries, first and foremost China, to implement fully its obligations under U.N. sanctions," he said.

On defense cost-sharing, Tillerson said that South Korea and Japan "already contribute large amounts to support U.S. forces in their respective countries."

   "I am optimistic that future discussions will continue to be productive and result in equitable burden-sharing arrangements," he said. "Our shared alliances form the foundation for security in Northeast Asia and beyond, so we must strengthen and modernize these alliances to manage growing regional and global challenges."

   jschang@yna.co.kr

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