TOKYO (AP) - The United States and Japan opened the door Sunday to
new nuclear talks with North Korea if the saber-rattling country lowered
tensions and honored past agreements, even as it rejected South Korea's
latest offer of dialogue as a "crafty trick."
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry told reporters
in Tokyo that North Korea would find "ready partners" in the United
States if it began abandoning its nuclear program.
Japan's foreign minister, Fumio Kishida, also
demanded a resolution to a dispute concerning Japanese citizens abducted
decades ago by North Korean officials.
The diplomats seemed to point the way for a possible revival of the six-nation talks that have been suspended for four years.
China long pushed has for the process to resume
without conditions. But the U.S. and allies South Korea and Japan fear
rewarding North Korea for its belligerence and the endless repetition of
a cycle of tensions and failed talks that have prolonged the crisis.
Kerry's message of openness to diplomacy was clear,
however unlikely the chances appeared that North Korean leader Kim Jong
Un's government would meet the American's conditions.
"I'm not going to be so stuck in the mud that an
opportunity to actually get something done is flagrantly wasted because
of a kind of predetermined stubbornness," he told U.S.-based
"You have to keep your mind open. But
fundamentally, the concept is they're going to have to show some kind of
good faith here so we're not going to around and around in the
same-old, same-old," he said.
Tensions have run high on the Korean Peninsula for
months, with North Korea testing a nuclear device and its
intercontinental ballistic missile technology.
The reclusive communist state hasn't stopped there.
It has issued almost daily threats that have included possible nuclear
strikes against the United States. Analysts and foreign officials say
that is still beyond the North Koreans' capability.
While many threats have been dismissed as bluster,
U.S. and South Korean say they believe the North in the coming days may
test a mid-range missile designed to reach as far as Guam, the U.S.
territory in the Pacific where the Pentagon is deploying a land-based
Japan is the last stop on a 10-day trip overseas for Kerry, who visited Seoul and Beijing as well in recent days.
In South Korea, he strongly warned North Korea not
to launch a missile and he reaffirmed U.S. defense of its allies in the
region. In China, he secured a public pledge from Beijing, the lone
government with significant influence over North Korea, to rid the North
of nuclear weapons.
Before flying back to the United States, Kerry told
students Monday at the Tokyo Institute of Technology that the important
thing was staying united on North Korea. He then met with Japanese
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
So far, Republican lawmakers in the U.S. have largely backed the Obama administration's efforts on North Korea.
U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., told CBS' "Face the
Nation" that he was encouraged by Kerry's China visit and that he hoped
"we can get the Chinese to care more about this issue.
U.S. Sen. John McCain of Arizona suggested on CNN's
"State of the Union" that the U.S. make a counter-threat by using
missile interceptors to hit any North Korean missile that is test-fired.
At each stop along his trip, Kerry stressed that
the United States wanted a peaceful resolution of the North Korea
situation six decades after a cease-fire ended the Korean War.
But North Korea on Sunday served a reminder of the
difficult task ahead. Its Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of
Korea said the government had no intention of talking with Seoul unless
the South abandons its confrontational posture, as the North called it.
Seoul had pressed North Korea to discuss restarting
operations at a joint factory park on the border and President Park
Geun-hye has stressed peace opportunities after taking power from her
more hard-line predecessor, Lee Myung-bak. The presidency expressed
regret with North Korea's rebuttal Sunday.
At a news conference in Tokyo, Kerry stressed that
gaining China's commitment to a denuclearized North Korea was no small
matter given its historically strong military and economic ties to North
But he refused to say what the Chinese were
offering to do concretely to pressure the North into abiding by some of
the conditions it agreed to in a 2005 deal that required it to abandon
its nuclear program.
"They have to take some actions," Kerry said of
North Korea. "How many or how much? I'd have to talk to folks back in
Washington about that. But if the Chinese came to us and said, 'Look,
here's what we have cooking,' I'm not going to tell you I'm shutting the
door today to something that's logical and might have a chance of
In remarks to U.S. journalists, Kerry said that
under the right circumstances, he even would consider making a grand
overture to North Korea's leader, such as an offer of direct talks with
"We're prepared to reach out," he said. Diplomacy,
he added, required risk-taking and secrecy such as when President
Richard Nixon engaged China in the 1970s or U.S. back-channel talks were
able to end the Cuban missile crisis a decade earlier.
Given their proximity and decades of hostility and
distrust, Japan and South Korea have the most to fear from the North's
Kerry clarified a statement he made Saturday in
Beijing, when he told reporters the U.S. could scale back its
missile-defense posture in the region if North Korea goes nuclear-free.
It appeared to be a sweetener to coax tougher
action from a Chinese government which has eyed the increased U.S.
military presence in its backyard warily, but which has done little over
the years to snuff out funding and support for North Korea's weapons of
mass destruction program.
Kerry said America's basic force posture wasn't up to debate. "There is no discussion that I know of to change that," he said.
But he said it was logical that additional
missile-defense elements, deployed specifically in response to the
Korean threat, could be reversed if that threat no longer existed.
"I was simply making an observation about the
rationale for that particular deployment, which is to protect the United
States' interests that are directly threatened by North Korea," he
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