Palo Alto: Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has voiced confidence North Korea will eventually negotiate with the United States, saying China’s cooperation with a US- led pressure campaign was starting to affect its reclusive ally’s thinking.
Most of North Korea’s trade is with China, and Tillerson yesterday said anecdotal evidence and intelligence suggested China’s application of UN sanctions is “really starting to hurt.” He cited North Korean food and fuel shortages.
The top American diplomat said he is waiting to hear from North Korean leader Kim Jong Un that he seeks to have a conversation.
“He’s got to tell me he wants to talk, but we are not going to chase him,” Tillerson said at Stanford University, where he participated in a question-and-answer session with Condoleezza Rice, a former secretary of state.
He said he was confident the two countries would “get to that negotiating table.”
Tillerson, who met U.S. allies in Canada on Tuesday to discuss intensifying sanctions on North Korea, cited Japanese intelligence in making his case that the effort was bearing fruit.
He said 100 North Korean fishing boats have drifted into Japanese waters and two-thirds of the people aboard have died.
What the Japanese learned is the North Korean fishermen “are being sent out in the wintertime to fish because there’s food shortages, and they’re being sent out to fish with a lack of fuel to get back,” he explained.
Tillerson said the US supports rapprochement between North and South Korea, which announced yesterday they’d march under a common flag at next month’s Olympics in South Korea.
Despite skepticism over the North’s intentions, Tillerson said Pyongyang would not be allowed to drive a wedge between the US and its partners.
He suggested the North’s outreach to South Korea may be an early effort to “break the ice” after a year of rising tensions as it approached its goal of having a nuclear-tipped missile that could reach the American mainland.