Tillerson urges "new approach" to North Korea, gives no details

Thu Mar 16, 2017 4:03pm GMT

By Elaine Lies and Kiyoshi Takenaka

TOKYO (Reuters) - The escalating threat from North Korea's nuclear program shows a clear need for a "new approach," U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said on Thursday, although he did not say what the Trump administration planned.

It was the first time that Tillerson, who was speaking at a joint news conference in Tokyo after talks with Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida, had taken questions from the media since taking office in early February.

Two decades of diplomatic and other efforts, including U.S. aid for North Korea, had failed to achieve the goal of denuclearizing Pyongyang, said Tillerson, a former oil executive with no prior diplomatic experience, at the start of his first trip to Asia as secretary of state.

"So we have 20 years of failed approach," Tillerson said. "That includes a period where the United States has provided $1.35 billion in assistance to North Korea as an encouragement to take a different pathway."

"In the face of this ever-escalating threat, it is clear that a different approach is required. Part of the purpose of my visit to the region is to exchange views on a new approach," he said.

A Japanese foreign ministry official said U.S. officials had discussed potential new approaches regarding North Korea, but he declined to elaborate.

As Tillerson presses the Chinese to do more to rein in North Korea's nuclear and missile programs, he is expected to tell them the United States intends to increase missile defense in the region, despite Beijing's strong opposition, a U.S. official told Reuters in Washington.

An advanced U.S. anti-missile system is being installed in South Korea, and the official said the Trump administration wants to discuss similar improvements with Japan.   Continued...

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (L) shakes hands with Japan's Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida before their meeting at the foreign ministry's Iikura guest house in Tokyo, Japan, March 16, 2017.   REUTERS/Toru Hanai
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