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(2nd LD) Tillerson says U.S. in contact with N. Korea over possible nuclear talks: report

2017/09/30 22:02

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(ATTN: UPDATES with minor changes, more information)

BEIJING, Sept. 30 (Yonhap) -- The United States is probing to find out whether North Korea is willing to hold talks on giving up its nuclear weapons, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has been quoted as saying.

"We are probing. We have lines of communication with Pyongyang," AFP quoted the U.S. diplomat as saying.

His remarks came shortly after he met Chinese President Xi Jinping and other Chinese officials in Beijing.

"We are not in a dark situation, a blackout. We have a couple, three channels open to Pyongyang," Tillerson added, according to the report.

Direct talks between Washington and Pyongyang may help ease tensions on the Korean Peninsula, which have been escalating due to a series of North Korean missile tests and the North's sixth and possibly most powerful nuclear test so far, staged Sept. 3.

The two sides have since been locked in a battle of threats.

U.S. President Donald Trump earlier warned of dire consequences for the North, saying his country will have no choice but to "totally destroy" North Korea if forced to defend itself or its allies.

Earlier in the day, an unidentified spokesperson for North Korea's Asia-Pacific Peace Committee threw a personal insult at Trump, saying he will face destruction due to his stupidity.

The U.S.-North Korea talks, if held, would mark the first of their kind since the new U.S. leader took office in February and the first since October 2016.