On Thursday, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson acknowledged the strained diplomatic relations between the U.S. and North Korea and said the time has come for a “different approach.” However, he didn’t explain what this approach might be and only told North Korea that it “need not fear” the U.S.
Tillerson’s proclamation came on the heels of his chat with Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida over new ways to deal with North Korea’s nuclear missile programs. The country has been flexing its missile power as of late, and China stepped in to threaten an arms race if the U.S. is hostile to North Korea. The escalating situation prompted Tillerson to admit that the current method of dealing with North Korea isn’t working, so he visited Japan to brainstorm new ideas:
“I think it’s important to recognize that the political and diplomatic efforts of the past 20 years to bring North Korea to the point of denuclearization have failed. 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.”
The former Exxon Mobil CEO’s “20 years” comment refers to the deal that U.S. and North Korea struck up in 1994 for the capital of Pyongyang to dismantling its nuclear weapons program in exchange for aid. The compromise dissolved in 2002, despite efforts to try again. However, Tillerson went on to say that he hopes to strike a new deal with the country. He also described North Korea’s aggression towards the U.S. as unwarranted:
“North Korea and its people need not fear the United States or their neighbors in the region who seek only to live in peace with North Korea. With this in mind, the United States calls on North Korea to abandon its nuclear and ballistic missile programs and refrain from any further provocation.”
This is Tillerson’s first trip to Asia since taking office, and tensions in this region will present one of his biggest challenges over the years.