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Tillerson promises NK regime security, appeals for trust: envoy

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Published : 2017-05-19 15:40
Updated : 2017-05-19 18:38

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Thursday Washington has no intention for a regime change or invasion of North Korea, urging it to abandon its nuclear program in return for regime security and an end to hostility, according to Seoul’s special envoys.

Tillerson made the remarks during his meeting with Hong Seok-hyun, a former chairman of JoongAng Media Network who is visiting Washington as President Moon Jae-in’s special envoy.

During the 40-minute talks, Tillerson expressed the country’s willingness to return to dialogue with Pyongyang if it shows sincerity through actions such as a halt in nuclear and missile tests, an official at Hong’s delegation said.

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson speaks during a press conference at the State Department in Washington, DC. (AFP-Yonhap)

“The secretary said (the Donald Trump administration’s) policy goal is not to pursue a regime change or aggression but to ensure regime security,” the official told reporters after the talks, calling the Kim Jong-un regime to “trust us, instead of using back channels.”

“But he said Washington will only openly send messages, rather than hold closed-door talks, emphasizing the North should take action to cease nuclear and missile tests.”

Tillerson’s comments echo Trump’s remarks a day ago that he is willing to engage the communist state, but not for the sake of talks without the “right conditions.” The secretary also said during a press interview last month that the administration has “no objective to change the regime” but seeks a denuclearized Korean Peninsula.

But the official said Tillerson’s remarks did not appear to mean any easing of preconditions for dialogue, with the ultimate goal of eliminating the North’s nuclear program remaining unchanged.

“The US’ first-stage objective is that Pyongyang does not carry out additional nuclear and missile tests,” he said. “I think the level of preconditions is quite high, and North Korea is supposed to take substantial activity first by refraining from the tests for a while before the atmosphere for talks starts to form.”

US special envoy Hong Seok-hyun (Yonhap)

Hong also quoted Tillerson as saying there are a multitude of US businesses willing to invest in the North which would help rebuild the crumbling economy if it makes the right choice.

“I was most impressed to see the US’ resolve for engagement that it pursues sanctions and pressure not to harass North Korea but to foster an opportunity for its development by opening its doors and abolishing its nuclear program in the long term,” Hong said.

With China taking economic retaliation against South Korea over the deployment of the US’ Terminal High Altitude Area Defense missile shield, Tillerson noted Beijing is moving to relax its sanctions on Lotte Group, which provided land for the system, another delegation member said.

“China knows that THAAD poses absolutely no threat to its own security,” Tillerson was quoted as saying. “The issue regarding the range of X-Band radar is not a problem China should be worried about.”

On his second day in Washington, Hong held a series of meetings with congressional leaders including Ed Royce, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Rep. Ted Yoho and Sens. Cory Gardner and Ben Cardin.

On Wednesday, Hong also met with National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster ahead of his visit to Trump. He is also scheduled for talks with John McCain and Mac Thornberry, who respectively head the Armed Services Committees at the Senate and House, think tank seminars and other events on Friday.

By Shin Hyon-hee (heeshin@heraldcorp.com)