Secretary of State John Kerry on Sunday said the U.S. was willing to “reach out” to North Korea, but said Pyongyang must first take steps to reduce tensions on the Korean peninsula.
“We are prepared to reach out but we need appropriate moment, appropriate circumstance,” said Kerry to reporters in Japan, according to a report from Reuters.
Kerry’s comments come after weeks of rhetoric from North Korea, which has threatened to attack the South and the U.S. The North has ratcheted up its threats after the UN passed heightened sanctions against the regime in response to its third nuclear test earlier this year.
There are also growing concerns North Korea is planning a test of a mid-range missile, which some fear could reach as far as the U.S. territory of Guam. The White House has dismissed North Korea’s threats as “bellicose rhetoric” even while the Pentagon has taken steps to beef up missile defenses in the Pacific.
Kerry, though, said the door to diplomacy was still open and urged North Korea to resume negotiations over their nuclear weapons.
"I think it is really unfortunate that there has been so much focus and attention in the media and elsewhere on the subject of war, when what we really ought to be talking about is the possibility of peace,” he said. “And I think there are those possibilities.”
Kerry said the U.S. was ready to defend its allies but “our choice is to negotiate, our choice is to move the table and find a way for the region to have peace.”
Kerry’s visit to Japan is the latest on an Asia trip to reassure allies and seek diplomatic help in reining in North Korea.
Kerry on Saturday stopped in Beijing, traditionally North Korea’s closest ally to seek their help in easing tensions.
After a meeting with top officials, Kerry said the U.S. and China had reaffirmed their “joint commitment to the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula in a peaceful manner.”
GOP lawmakers have called on the administration to press China to do more to force North Korea to calm tensions.