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. 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.
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.
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 Korea. 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.
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 the U.S.
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 conditions.
Japan is the last stop on a 10-day trip overseas for Kerry, who visited Seoul and Beijing as well in recent days.