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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

U.S. causes confusion with mixed messages on North Korea in the run up to ASEAN forum

Updated: 2017-08-03 20:02:16 KST

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence has said that Washington will not be looking to hold direct talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in order to denuclearize the regime and that the right strategy doesn't involve "engaging North Korea directly."

In an interview with the Wall Street Journal on Wednesday, he said he favoured economic and diplomatic pressure, particularly through trying to push China to use its influence on Pyongyang.

He added that "all options are on the table," including military action.

This rather flies in the face of U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson's comments the day previously.

At a State Department press briefing on Tuesday, he said the first appropriate thing to do was to seek "peaceful pressure" on the regime and have them "develop a willingness to sit and talk", while under the understanding that they had to give up their nuclear arsenal.

He said, "We are not your enemy" and that Washington does not seek regime change or have any intention to invade North Korea's borders.

This soft tone again contradicts what President Donald Trump is reported to have said.

Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, in an interview with NBC on Tuesday, quotes Trump as saying that he would not allow Pyongyang to develop a nuclear missile capable of hitting the U.S. and that there would be a war with North Korea if it did.

But Trump has also in the past championed opening dialogue, and even said that he would be "honoured" to meet with Kim Jong-un, under the appropriate circumstances.

In the midst of this confused rhetoric, Tillerson will be heading to Manila over the weekend for the ASEAN Regional Forum.

Also in attendance will be North Korean foreign minister Ri Yong-ho, and although they will likely cross paths, the State Department has confirmed that they will not be sitting down for talks.

Instead, the State Department said Tillerson would be seeking greater cooperation from other nations there in isolating North Korea further over its missile and nuclear weapons programs.

That includes China's foreign minister Wang Yi, with whom they said they are likely to hold a bilateral meeting.

Kwon Jang-ho, Arirang News.

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