However, Pyongyang must come to the negotiating table willing to make choices to change course on its nuclear and missile programs, Tillerson said in a speech to a Washington think tank.
Tillerson also said that the North Korean threat was strong and U.S. armed forces have been ordered to have a “full range of contingencies available.”
“The best signal that North Korea could give us that they’re prepared to talk would be to stop these missile launches,” Tillerson told reporters in August.
While prior to its latest launch North Korea did not fire a missile for 74 days, it had not officially declared a moratorium. North Korea broke its pause in missile launches on Nov. 29 with the highly provocative launch of an ICBM that reached into space before landing in waters within Japan’s exclusive economic zone.
President Donald Trump has taken a hard line with North Korea since coming to office in January, demanding the complete denuclearization of the regime. Meanwhile he has ordered Tillerson to find a diplomatic solution, while simultaneously preparing military options to force North Korea to the negotiating table.
So far North Korean communist dictator Kim Jong Un has refused to engage in talks. Instead, North Korea has issued multiple threats to strike the U.S. mainland, as well as U.S. allies Japan and South Korea, with nuclear weapons.
The situation has been further complicated by Russia’s reluctance to further step up sanctions against North Korea. During Trump’s Asia trip in November, he said that Russia might be making up for the trade losses the North Korean regime has suffered due to China’s implementation of sanctions.
Russia and China did agree, under pressure from Trump following a North Korean nuclear test, to approve and implement new United Nations Security Council sanctions in early September.
Those sanctions, however, have not proven enough to force North Korea to the negotiating table.
Trump had reportedly wanted a complete cut in oil supplies to North Korea, while China and Russia, insisted on a reduced quantity. The amount was ultimately set at 500,000 barrels per day. Natural gas supplies, however, were completely cut.
Trump himself expressed doubt on Friday that the sanctions would be able to have the desired effect.
“As part of a campaign of maximum pressure on the vile dictatorship of North Korea, we have imposed the toughest ever sanctions passed by the United Nations Security Council,” said Trump.
“We have a lot of other sanctions. But I don’t know if sanctions are going to work with him. We have to give it a shot.”
Trump announced that he was pursuing additional sanctions against Kim’s communist regime following its Nov. 29 intercontinental ballistic missile launch.
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