U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Tuesday that North Korea will continue to face sanctions until it takes "decisive steps" to abandon its nuclear weapons program.
Tillerson was speaking at a foreign ministers' meeting in Vancouver, Canada, that focused on addressing the threat posed by North Korea's nuclear and ballistic missile programs.
"The pressure campaign will continue until North Korea takes decisive steps to denuclearize," he said, according to an AP transcript. The secretary was referring to the U.S.-led campaign of "maximum pressure," which seeks to increase economic sanctions against Pyongyang and deepen its diplomatic isolation until it comes forward for denuclearization talks.
"This is a strategy that will require patience," he added.
The meeting brought together foreign ministers from 20 nations, including South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha, Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono and their counterparts from countries that fought alongside the South in the 1950-53 Korean War. It was co-hosted by Tillerson and Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland.
The gathering came against the backdrop of resumed dialogue between South and North Korea following months of heightened tensions over Pyongyang's nuclear and missile provocations.
While many have welcomed the inter-Korean talks as the first step to easing tensions, critics are skeptical they will lead to a change in North Korea's behavior. They suspect the North is using the talks as a means to gain concessions and weaken the international sanctions regime.
"Let me be clear: We will not allow North Korea to drive a wedge through our resolve or our solidarity," Tillerson said. "As it was in the beginning, the great goal of the pressure campaign is to cut off the sources of funding that the DPRK uses to finance its illegal nuclear and ballistic missile programs. Additionally, we must increase the cost of the regime's behavior to the point that North Korea comes to the table for credible negotiations."
DPRK is the acronym for North Korea's official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.
Tillerson added: "The object of the negotiations, if we get there, is the complete, verifiable, and irreversible denuclearization of North Korea."
He rejected the notion of a "freeze for freeze," which calls for suspending U.S.-South Korea military drills in exchange for North Korea's halting of its weapons testing.
That proposal, mainly advocated by China and Russia, places "legitimate defense and military exercises ... on the same level of equivalency as the DPRK's unlawful actions," he said.
Tillerson urged the international community to work more closely to address the threat.
"When we consider the DPRK has avowed strikes on civilian targets, that Oslo is nearer to Pyongyang than Seattle, that London is nearer to North Korea than Los Angeles, that Amsterdam, Ankara, Beijing, Paris and Moscow are nearer than New York City, we see a global problem requiring a global solution," he said. (Yonhap)