Kerry says US will talk to Korea if nuclear arms given up

John Kerry and his Japanese counterpart, Fumio Kishida, take questions from the media.  Picture: Reuters
John Kerry and his Japanese counterpart, Fumio Kishida, take questions from the media. Picture: Reuters
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US SECRETARY of State John Kerry has stressed the United States is willing to engage with North Korea as long as the Democratic People’s Republic takes steps to give up nuclear weapons.

An overture by Seoul to resolve rising tensions on the Korean peninsula through dialogue was dismissed yesterday by Pyongyang, which described it as a “crafty trick” by its rival.

Mr Kerry, speaking in Tokyo, vowed the US would protect its Asian allies against any provocative acts by the North, but said Washington wants a peaceful solution to the rising tensions.

“We are prepared to reach out but we need [the] appropriate moment, appropriate circumstance,” Mr Kerry said yesterday, adding that North Korea had to take steps towards giving up its nuclear programmes.

“They have to take some actions. Now how many and how much I want to have a discussion with folks back in Washington [about] ... but they have to take action,” he said.

The North has threatened for weeks to attack the United States, South Korea and Japan since new UN sanctions were imposed in response to its latest nuclear arms test in February.

“I think it is really unfortunate that there has been so much focus and attention in the media and elsewhere on the subject of war, when what we really ought to be talking about is the possibility of peace. And I think there are those possibilities,” Mr Kerry earlier told a Tokyo news conference after meeting his Japanese counterpart, Fumio Kishida.

Mr Kerry was in Japan for the final stop on an Asian tour aimed at solidifying support for curbing North Korea’s nuclear programme, and reassuring US allies.

Mr Kerry also sought to clarify his comments made in Beijing on Saturday, which some took to suggest he might be offering to remove recently boosted missile defence capabilities in Asia if China persuaded North Korea to abandon its atomic programmes.

The Pentagon in recent weeks has announced plans to position two Aegis guided-missile destroyers in the western Pacific and a Terminal High Altitude Area Defence (THAAD) missile defence system on Guam.

“The president of the United States deployed some additional missile defence capacity precisely because of the threat of North Korea. And it is logical that if the threat of North Korea disappears because the peninsula denuclearises, then obviously that threat no longer mandates that kind of posture. But there have been no agreements, no discussions, there is nothing actually on the table with respect to that,” Mr Kerry said.

Japan’s Mr Kishida told the same news conference that the two allies want Pyongyang to abandon its nuclear ambitions.

“We agreed that North Korea should cease provocative speech and behaviour and show it is taking concrete action toward denuclearisation,” he said. “We cannot allow North Korea in any way to possess nuclear weapons.”

Pyongyang, which celebrates the birth date of state founder Kim Il-sung today, reiterated it had no intention of abandoning its atomic arms programmes.

“We will expand in quantity our nuclear weapons capability, which is the treasure of a unified Korea ... that we would never barter at any price,” Kim Young-nam, North Korea’s titular head of state, told a gathering of officials and service personnel applauding Kim Il-Sung.