US Urges North Korea to Cease Weapons Testing for Talks to be Held

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson speaks during a United Nations Security Council meeting, to discuss a North Korean missile program. (Reuters)
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson speaks during a United Nations Security Council meeting, to discuss a North Korean missile program. (Reuters)
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US Urges North Korea to Cease Weapons Testing for Talks to be Held

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson speaks during a United Nations Security Council meeting, to discuss a North Korean missile program. (Reuters)
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson speaks during a United Nations Security Council meeting, to discuss a North Korean missile program. (Reuters)

North Korea must carry out a “sustained cessation” of weapons testing to allow talks to be held between it and Washington, announced US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Friday at a United Nations Security Council meeting on the isolated country.

“North Korea must earn its way back to the table. The pressure campaign must and will continue until denuclearization is achieved,” he added without specifying how long the lull should last.

He told reporters after the meeting that the United States would not accept any preconditions for talks with North Korea on its nuclear and missile programs.

Tillerson had raised hopes this week that the United States and North Korea could negotiate to resolve their standoff when he said that the United States was “ready to talk any time North Korea would like to talk.” But the White House distanced itself from those remarks by Tillerson and said that now is not the time for negotiations.

Asked Friday if he supported unconditional talks, US President Donald Trump did not answer directly.

"Well, we're going to see what happens with North Korea. We have a lot of support. There are a lot of nations that agree with us — almost everybody," Trump told reporters. He credited China — which accounts for about 90 percent of North Korea's external trade — with helping on pressuring North Korea, while Russia was not.

"We'd like to have Russia's help — very important," said Trump. He raised it in a Thursday phone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

North Korea’s ambassador to the United Nations on Friday made no mention of Tillerson’s call for a halt to testing when he addressed the same UN meeting.

Ambassador Ja Song Nam said his country would not pose a threat to any state, as long as its interests were not infringed upon.

He described the Security Council session as “a desperate measure plotted by the US being terrified by the incredible might of our Republic that has successfully achieved the great historic cause of completing the state nuclear force.”

North Korea has made clear it has little interest in negotiations with the United States until it has developed the ability to hit the US mainland with a nuclear-tipped missile, something most experts say it has yet to prove.

North Korea conducted missile tests at a steady pace since April, then paused in September after firing a rocket that passed over Japan’s Hokkaido island. But it renewed tests in November when it fired a new type of intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM), the Hwasong-15, which flew higher and further than previous tests.

China's deputy UN ambassador pushed back against US insistence that the Asian country holds the key to resolving North Korea's escalating nuclear and ballistic missile programs.

Wu Haitao told the Security Council that "the current situation on the (Korean) Peninsula is not caused by any one party alone, and it is not possible to impose on any one party the responsibility of solving the problem."

Wu said: "The parties concerned should move towards each other instead of engaging in rhetoric blaming, and not shift responsibility to others."

He also criticized unilateral sanctions against North Korea — which the US, European Union, Japan and others have imposed — saying they undermine Security Council unity "and should be abandoned."

Wu added "the hope for peace is not totally obliterated" and urged all parties to "keep in mind the big picture of maintaining peace and stability" and end rhetoric that exacerbates tensions.

Japan's foreign minister urged the international community to maximize pressure on North Korea "by all means available," saying there is no other way to get Pyongyang to curb its escalating nuclear and missile programs.

Taro Kono announced that Japan has ordered the assets of 19 North Korean entities to be frozen, and he called on other countries to introduce or strengthen sanctions against the North.

Kono said last week's visit to Pyongyang by UN political chief Jeffrey Feltman "only reconfirmed the dire reality" that North Korea "is nowhere near ready" to abandon its nuclear and missile programs, "nor is it interested in returning to a meaningful dialogue."

He urged the Security Council not to backtrack from the demand that North Korea abandon its nuclear and missile programs "in a complete, verifiable and irreversible manner."

Tillerson urged China and Russia on Friday to increase pressure on North Korea by going beyond the implementation of UN sanctions but the two countries were wary of the idea.

Russian UN Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia said Moscow was committed to implementing UN sanctions on North Korea and echoed China’s concerns about unilateral sanctions.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres told the Security Council it was time to immediately re-establish and strengthen communication channels with North Korea, including inter-Korean and military-to-military channels, to reduce the risk of a misunderstanding escalating into conflict.



Ukraine Summit Attracts World Leaders, Fails to Isolate Russia

This photograph shows a sign representing Ukraine on the bank of Lake Lucerne in Lucerne, on June 14, 2024, ahead of a Ukraine peace summit on June 15-16, 2024.
This photograph shows a sign representing Ukraine on the bank of Lake Lucerne in Lucerne, on June 14, 2024, ahead of a Ukraine peace summit on June 15-16, 2024.
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Ukraine Summit Attracts World Leaders, Fails to Isolate Russia

This photograph shows a sign representing Ukraine on the bank of Lake Lucerne in Lucerne, on June 14, 2024, ahead of a Ukraine peace summit on June 15-16, 2024.
This photograph shows a sign representing Ukraine on the bank of Lake Lucerne in Lucerne, on June 14, 2024, ahead of a Ukraine peace summit on June 15-16, 2024.

World leaders will join Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy at a summit this weekend to explore ways of ending the deadliest conflict in Europe since World War Two, but Russia isn't invited and the event will fall short of Kyiv's aim of isolating Moscow.

US Vice President Kamala Harris, French President Emmanuel Macron and the leaders of Germany, Italy, Britain, Canada and Japan are among those set to attend the June 15-16 meeting at the Swiss mountaintop resort of Buergenstock.

India, which has helped Moscow survive the shock of economic sanctions, is expected to send a delegation. Turkey and Hungary, which similarly maintain cordial ties with Russia, will be represented by their foreign ministers.

But despite months of intense Ukrainian and Swiss lobbying, some others will not be there, most notably China, a key consumer of Russian oil and supplier of goods that help Moscow maintain its manufacturing base.

"This meeting is already a result," Zelenskiy said in Berlin on Tuesday, while acknowledging the challenge of maintaining international support as the war, now well into its third year, grinds on.

Ninety-two countries and eight organizations will attend, Switzerland said. Organizers preparing a joint statement have battled to strike a balance between condemning Russia's actions and securing as many participants as possible, diplomats say.

A final draft of the summit declaration refers to Russia's "war" against Ukraine, and also underlines commitment to the UN charter and respect for international law, according to two people familiar with the document.

Participants not in agreement with the declaration have until the end of Friday to opt out, the sources said.

The Swiss foreign ministry declined to comment.

Switzerland wants the summit to pave the way for a "future peace process" in which Russia takes part - and to determine which country could take on the next phase.

'FUTILE'

The idea of a summit was originally floated after Zelenskiy presented a 10-point peace plan in late 2022.

Ulrich Schmid, a political scientist and Eastern Europe expert at the University of St. Gallen, said the summit appeared to be "a mixed bag" so far, given the show of support from some quarters and China's absence.

"Then the question arises: is peace actually doable?" Schmid added. "As long as (Russian President Vladimir) Putin is in power... it will be difficult."

Putin said on Friday that Russia would cease fire and enter peace talks if Ukraine dropped its NATO ambitions and withdrew its forces from four Ukrainian regions claimed by Moscow. Kyiv has repeatedly said its territorial integrity is non-negotiable.

Russia, which sent tens of thousands of troops into Ukraine on Feb. 24, 2022, has described the idea of a summit to which it is not invited as "futile".

Moscow casts its "special military operation" in Ukraine as part of a broader struggle with the West, which it says wants to bring Russia to its knees. Kyiv and the West say this is nonsense and accuse Russia of waging an illegal war of conquest.

Given such entrenched differences, the summit will focus on parts of Zelenskiy's plan broad enough to be palatable to most, if not all, participants. These include the need to guarantee food security, nuclear safety, freedom of navigation, prisoner exchanges, and the return of children, officials said.

Meanwhile, China, along with Brazil, is pushing a separate peace plan for Ukraine that calls for the participation of both warring parties. Moscow has voiced its support for Beijing's efforts to end the conflict.

Kyiv has not hidden its frustration at China's decision to skip the Swiss summit. Zelenskiy even accused Beijing of helping Russia to disrupt it, an extraordinary outburst against a global superpower with unrivalled influence over Moscow.

On the battlefield, the gathering comes at a difficult time for Ukraine. Russian troops, who control around 18% of Ukrainian territory, are advancing in the east in a war that has killed tens of thousands of soldiers and civilians, left villages, towns and cities in ruins and uprooted millions.