US says efforts to 'denuclearise North Korea' have failed

The secretive Communist state 'need not fear' Washington if it abandons its nuclear programme, says American Secretary of State Rex Tillerson

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Attempts to denuclearise North Korea over the past 20 years have failed, according the US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson

Calling on the secretive Communist state to abandon its “dangerous and unlawful” the former Exxon Mobil CEO said country “need not fear” America. . 

"So we have 20 years of failed approach," Mr Tillerson said after a meeting with Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida in Tokyo. "That includes a period where the United States has provided $1.35 billion (£1.09 billion) in assistance to North Korea as an encouragement to take a different pathway."

He added: "In the face of this ever-escalating threat, it is clear that a different approach is required. Part of the purpose of my visit to the region is to exchange views on a new approach."

Mr Tillerson made the remarks after discussion with his Japanese counterparts on possible new approaches towards dealing with North Korea. 

He did not reveal how the Trump administration, which is currently doing a review of US policy towards North Korea, would tackle the country. 

Mr Tillerson’s come at a time of increasing tension on the Korean Peninsula.

North Korea last week launched four missiles into the Sea of Japan where the US is currently conducting its annual military drills with South Korea.

Pyongyang regards these drills as a rehearsal for invasion but Washington and Seoul say they are purely defensive.

"North Korea and its people need not fear the United States or their neighbours in the region who seek only to live in peace with North Korea," Mr Tillerson told a news conference. "With this in mind, the United States calls on North Korea to abandon its nuclear and ballistic missile programmes and refrain from any further provocation." 

He later met separately with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. 

Meanwhile in Beijing, a North Korean diplomat said that his country must act in self-defence against the US-South Korea military drills which he said have brought the region to the brink of nuclear war. 

"The United States holds a joint military exercise every year to push the situation on the Korean Peninsula to a serious situation, and that is the source of the super tough measures we must take," Pak Myong Ho told reporters in a rare briefing at the North Korean Embassy in the Chinese capital. 

North Korea has accelerated its weapons development in violation of multiple UN Security Council resolutions and despite tough sanctions levied against it. 

Last year, the North conducted two nuclear test explosions and 24 ballistic missile tests.

Experts say it could have a nuclear-tipped missile that could reach the United States within a few years. 

Mr Tillerson said that his trip was intended to get input from other governments on how to deal with North Korea. 

Along with Mr Kishida, he urged China use its economic leverage with North Korea to push it to change course.