Secretary of State John Kerry kicked off his visit to Asia on Thursday with a sharp warning to North Korea.
“Let me be clear; the United States will not accept North Korea as a nuclear-armed state,” Kerry said at a press conference with South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se. “We will not accept talks for the sake of talks, and the DPRK [Democratic People's Republic of Korea] must show that it will live up to its commitments.”
He added that it not “appropriate to link humanitarian issues such as [family] reunification to any other issues.”
State Department officials briefing reporters ahead of Kerry's trip to South Korea, China and Indonesia said the trip - Kerry's fifth to the region - was evidence of his commitment to President Obama's “Asia pivot” despite the crises in the Middle East. They said North Korea would be a central issue in meetings with South Korean and Chinese leaders.
“The secretary’s focus is on close coordination on North Korea,” a senior State Department official said. “He will reaffirm our alliance commitments as well as our resolve to work closely together with the Republic of Korea to promote denuclearization and to maintain deterrence.”
The goal, the official said, is to get China - the only country believed to have some influence on its reclusive neighbor - to move beyond rhetoric and up the pressure on North Korea to abandon its nuclear arsenal. The country first tested a nuclear device in 2006 and has been expanding a uranium enrichment facility while restarting a plutonium reactor that was shut down in 2007, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper testified last month.
“On North Korea, the way that you might want to think about the issue is that we are embarked in an effort to translate denuclearization from a noun to a verb,” the State Department official said. “The secretary believes strongly that the North Korean nuclear threat is not a problem that we can all admire from a distance. What he seeks to do is to enlist greater and greater levels of Chinese cooperation in actually helping to achieve the goal of denuclearization, not just talking about it.”
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