Thursday 19 April 2018

US secretary of state Rex Tillerson commends North Korea's 'restraint'

Rex Tillerson commended North Korea for recent restraint (AP/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
Rex Tillerson commended North Korea for recent restraint (AP/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

US secretary of state Rex Tillerson has commended North Korea for recent restraint that he said could point the way to possible dialogue with America.

Mr Tillerson said North Korea has not launched missiles or other provocations since the UN Security Council adopted a resolution against weapons development on August 5.

He told reporters that demonstrated "a level of restraint that we have not seen in the past".

Mr Tillerson expressed hope that it could signal a North Korean willingness to lessen tensions and that, "perhaps we are seeing our pathway" to a dialogue in the near future.

He added, however: "We need to see more on their part."

Tensions were running high after the UN adopted new sanctions and after recent threats by the two nations' leaders.

Earlier, North Korea condemned President Donald Trump as a leader who frequently tweets "weird articles of his ego-driven thoughts" and "spouts rubbish" to give his assistants a hard time.

The official Korean Central News Agency made the comments in response to tough talk in Washington and Seoul over threats posed by the North's nuclear and missile programmes.

It criticised South Korea's "puppy-like" defence minister, who it said was "running wild" while relying on the "master of the White House".

The KCNA statement came hours after North Korea's military issued its standard fiery threats in response to war games involving US and South Korean troops, vowing "merciless retaliation" for the exercises which it views as a rehearsal for an invasion.

US military commanders earlier dismissed calls for Washington and Seoul to pause or downsize the joint military exercises to tamp down the tension created by North Korean threats to fire missiles towards Guam, saying the drills are critical for maintaining military readiness against Pyongyang.

Admiral Harry Harris, commander of US forces in the Pacific, told reporters on a visit to South Korea that while a diplomatic solution to the North Korean nuclear problem is the priority, diplomacy must be backed with "credible combat power".

Vincent Brooks, commander of US Forces Korea, said the allies should continue the war games until they "have reason not to".

KCNA wrote: "Trump spouted rubbish that if a war breaks out, it would be on the Korean Peninsula, and if thousands of people die, they would be only Koreans and Americans may sleep a sound sleep."

The agency also ridiculed South Korea's defence minister Song Young-moo for "pinning hope on that mad guy", after he ordered troops to be prepared to "immediately and sternly punish" any provocation by North Korea.

Pyongyang has previously unleashed personal attacks on past Washington and Seoul leaders, calling former US president Barack Obama a monkey and ex-South Korean president Park Geun-hye a prostitute.

Mr Trump was previously described in North Korean state media as "going senile" and a "war maniac bereft of reason".

He has used Twitter to launch his own insults at North Korea and its leader, Kim Jong Un. On August 11, he tweeted that military solutions were "fully in place, locked and loaded, should North Korea act unwisely" amid the stand-off between Washington and Pyongyang over the Guam missile threat.

But he complimented Mr Kim five days later for making a "very wise and well reasoned decision" after Pyongyang walked away from the threat.

After a July missile test by North Korea, Mr Trump went on Twitter to ask whether Mr Kim had "anything better to do with his life?"

''Hard to believe that South Korea ... and Japan will put up with this much longer. Perhaps China will put a heavy move on North Korea and end this nonsense once and for all!"


Press Association

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