N. Korea Concerns on Forefront on Secretary of State Tillerson's Visit to China
By Nike Ching March 19, 2017
U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson says the U.S. and China feel a sense of urgency about North Korea, which on Sunday tested a high-thrust rocket that it called the "new birth" of its rocket industry.
Concerns about North Korea and its increasingly threatening behavior dominated discussions during Tillerson's first trip to the region, which included stops in Japan, South Korea and China, the final stop.
The administration of Donald Trump is looking for a new way forward on the issue and clearly finding a way to work together with China on the regional flash point is key.
"We've committed ourselves to do everything we can to prevent any type of conflict from breaking out. And we view there are a number of steps that we can take that are in front of us," Tillerson said, speaking at a joint news conference with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi.
Neither Tillerson nor Wang elaborated what steps are under consideration and it's still unclear whether Washington and Beijing see eye to eye on the issue.
Before Tillerson arrived in Beijing, President Donald Trump criticized China for not doing enough.
"North Korea is behaving badly. They have been playing the United States for years. China has done little to help!" Trump said in the tweet.
But Wang told Tillerson it is everyone's responsibility to "implement sanctions" and try and "restart talks."
Earlier in Tokyo, Tillerson declared that diplomatic and other efforts over the past 20 years to put an end North Korea's nuclear ambitions have failed.
All options on the table
In Seoul, He said all options are on the table, including military measures.
"If North Korea takes actions that threatens South Korean forces or our own forces, then that would be met with an appropriate response. If they elevate the threat of their weapons program to a level that we believe requires action, that option is on the table," said Tillerson at a joint news conference with South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se.
Some experts argue it's not a tougher approach that is needed, but direct talks without pre-conditions.
"Of course there is no guarantee for success. Right now the status-quo is not working. Time is not on our side," said James McKeon, a policy analyst at the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation.
"The North Koreans continue to advance their nuclear and ballistic missile capabilities to the point that they are now, not necessarily testing their missiles, they are showing off their missiles' capabilities."
Earlier this month, North Korea conducted its latest missile launch, firing four missiles into the Sea of Japan. The ballistic missiles landed inside Japan's exclusive economic zone – an area according to international law that extends 200 kilometers off a country's coastline.
Rocket engine test
On Sunday, news of the rocket engine test came not long before Tillerson met with Chinese President Xi Jinping.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said the test was successful and that "the world will soon witness the great significance of the epoch-making victory" that Pyongyang has achieved.
The test consisted of firing the rocket engine while it was held in place on the ground, not powering a missile. The ignition took place at the Tongchang-ri rocket launch station, near the North's border with China, according to North Korea media.
During Tillerson's meeting with Chinese President Xi on Sunday, the two discussed efforts to arrange a planned meeting between President Trump and Xi. Diplomatic sources told VOA the meeting from April 6-7 will take place at Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida.
Tillerson told Xi that President Trump looks forward to enhancing the understanding between the two countries, and "the opportunity for a visit in the future."
Working together to get North Korea to change course is something Trump and Xi will need to work out face to face.
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