Tillerson vows continued pressure on North Korea

Secretary of State and Canadian counterpart form international group to increase pressure on North Korea.

Ben Ariel,

Rex Tillerson
Rex Tillerson

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and his Canadian counterpart Chrystia Freeland announced on Tuesday the formation of a new international group to increase the pressure on North Korea over its growing nuclear and ballistic missile programs, ABC News reported.

The coalition of countries will meet for the first time on January 16 in Vancouver, in a “demonstration of international solidarity against North Korea’s dangerous and illegal actions,” said Freeland in a conversation with Tillerson.

Co-hosted by the U.S. and Canada, the “Vancouver Group” will consist of the UN Command Sending States – those 16 countries that were part of the original UN-led military coalition that fought back North Korea's invasion in the Korean War – as well as South Korea, Japan, India, Sweden and others, according to Tillerson.

The group will discuss how to "improve the effectiveness of the current pressure campaign” and how to "prepare for the prospect of talks," Tillerson said, adding the ultimate objective is to get North Korea to the table.

“The pressure campaign is intended to lead to talks,” Tillerson said, according to ABC News, adding, “We can’t talk unless North Korea is ready to talk, and I think, as we’ve indicated, we’re waiting for them to indicate a readiness to talk.”

The pressure campaign “will not abate, we will not be rolling any of it back, it will only be intensified as time goes by, and it will remain in place until they agree to give up their nuclear weapons and allow us to verify that that is in fact what they have done,” he added.

Tillerson has repeatedly called for a diplomatic solution to the crisis with North Korea and reiterated Tuesday that such talks have the White House's backing, despite what President Donald Trump has said previously.

“They have not rejected diplomatic talks. What the White House has merely observed is that North Korea has not exhibited a willingness to talk,” he said.

Last week, the Secretary of State underlined that the United States was seeking a diplomatic opening for negotiations with North Korea on ending its nuclear program and, for the first time, offered "talks with no preconditions."

The White House had responded to Tillerson's remarks by insisting there has been no change in U.S. policy.

Tillerson later backtracked from his offer of unconditional talks, stressing the isolated country must "earn its way back" to the negotiating table.