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(LEAD) Tillerson: U.S. open to talks with N. Korea despite missile launch

2017/08/28 04:04

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(ATTN: UPDATES with background, South Korea's response to missile launch; ADDS photo)

By Lee Haye-ah

WASHINGTON, Aug. 27 (Yonhap) -- U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Sunday he is willing to have talks with North Korea even after its latest missile provocation.

Tillerson made the remark on "Fox News Sunday," a day after Pyongyang fired three missiles into waters between the Korean Peninsula and Japan. South Korea said the projectiles appeared to be artillery rockets from a multiple-rocket launcher. The U.S. characterized them as short-range ballistic missiles.

"The firing of any ballistic missile is a violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions," the secretary said. "We do view it as a provocative act against the United States and our allies."

   He said the launches sent a signal that Pyongyang is still not prepared to back away from its nuclear and ballistic missile programs.

"Having said that, we're going to continue our peaceful pressure campaign, as I have described it, working with allies and working with China as well to see if we can bring the regime in Pyongyang to the negotiating table with a view to begin a dialogue on a different future for Korean Peninsula and for North Korea," he said.

This AP photo shows U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson speaking during a press conference at the Department of State in Washington on Aug. 22, 2017. (Yonhap) This AP photo shows U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson speaking during a press conference at the Department of State in Washington on Aug. 22, 2017. (Yonhap)

Tillerson last week noted that North Korea has exercised "restraint" since the U.N. Security Council sanctioned it on Aug. 5 for testing two intercontinental ballistic missiles in July.

U.S. President Donald Trump later said North Korean leader Kim Jong-un was "starting to respect us."

   Tillerson denied they were wrong to say that.

"I think it's going to take some time to tell," he said.

Tensions between Washington and Pyongyang escalated after North Korea's two ICBM tests. Trump threatened to unleash "fire and fury" on Pyongyang if it continued to threaten the U.S. or its allies, while the communist regime hit back with threats to launch ballistic missiles toward Guam.

The war of words subsided after Kim put his plan on hold.

"We continue to want the Kim regime to understand there is a different path he can choose," Tillerson said. "There is also a unified international voice echoing our messages that no one wants to see a nuclear Korean Peninsula. We hope for the opportunity to engage with them as to how we might achieve that."

   The latest provocation came as South Korean and U.S. troops have been conducting joint annual drills against a possible North Korean attack. While the allies insist the command post exercise is purely defensive in nature, Pyongyang has long viewed it as an invasion rehearsal.

South Korea's presidential office, Cheong Wa Dae, played down the missile launch as a typical response to the drills.

"It seems that North Korea is trying not to aggravate the situation," a presidential official said on the customary condition of anonymity. "This kind of low-intensity provocation can be read as a signal that a mood for dialogue can follow the allies' military exercises."

   hague@yna.co.kr

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