After meeting with South Korean officials in Seoul, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the United States will complete its North Korea policy review in coming weeks, and that both pressure and diplomatic options are on the table.
Both pressure and diplomatic options are on the table for dealing with North Korea, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has said, hours after a senior North Korean diplomat rejected any talks until Washington changed its policies.
Blinken on Thursday told a joint briefing with South Korean officials in Seoul that the administration of President Joe Biden would complete its review of North Korea policy in the next few weeks in close consultation with its allies.
Both pressure and diplomatic options were being considered, he added, but declined to elaborate when asked what approach the United States would take after the review.
"We are interested in reducing threats North Korea's missile program causes and improving the lives of people there," Blinken said.
Blinken stated that policy review that has been engaged in was a comprehensive, and it was done in close consultation between Republic of Korea, Japan and other allies.
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The comments came hours after North Korean official Choe Son Hui called the Biden administration's attempts to contact Pyongyang a "cheap trick", in the North's first public statement on the matter.
Blinken was making his first visit to Asia as secretary of state, alongside US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin.
They issued a joint statement with their South Korean counterparts, Foreign Minister Chung Eui-yong and Defense Minister Suh Wook, vowing to work together on regional issues from climate change and the coronavirus pandemic to trade and North Korea.
"The ministers and secretaries emphasized that North Korean nuclear and ballistic missile issues are a priority for the alliance, and reaffirmed a shared commitment to address and resolve these issues," they said in the statement.
North ignores US offer for talks
North Korea said on Thursday it will ignore a US offer for talks unless it withdraws its hostile policy, after Washington reached out to Pyongyang in a bid to resume nuclear negotiations.
The statement by Choe Son Hui, the first vice foreign minister, came hours before the US and South Korean foreign and defense chiefs met in Seoul for their first joint talks in five years to discuss North Korea’s nuclear program.
“What has been heard from the US since the emergence of the new regime is only a lunatic theory of ‘threat from North Korea’ and groundless rhetoric about ‘complete denuclearization,’” Choe said, calling the offer for talks a “time-delaying trick.”
He reiterated North Korea’s position that no “dialogue of any kind” can be possible unless the United States rolls back its hostility.
“Therefore, we will disregard such an attempt of the US in the future, too.”
Blinken has said during a visit to Tokyo earlier this week that Washington had reached out to North Korea through several channels, including in New York, starting in mid-February.
North Korea's rights condition
When Blinken met Chung on Wednesday, he said the United States will work with allies to achieve the denuclearisation of North Korea and criticized what he called North Korea’s “systematic and widespread abuses against its own people.”
According to the State Department, Blinken and Chung also reaffirmed a shared commitment to address North Korean nuclear and ballistic missile issues that they said are “a priority for the alliance.”
Choe said US attempts to contact North Korea included emails and telephone messages via various channels.
She said that even on the eve of its drills with South Korea, Washington sent a message “imploring us to respond to its request through a third country.”
Choe said it will “only be a waste of time to sit with the U.S.”
'Foremost principal enemy'
The US envoys were due to meet later with President Moon Jae-in, who brokered the talks process between Kim and then US president Donald Trump in 2018.
Trump's unorthodox approach to foreign policy saw him trade insults and threats of war with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un before an extraordinary diplomatic bromance that saw a series of headline-grabbing meetings, beginning in Singapore.
But ultimately no progress was made towards Washington's declared aim of denuclearising North Korea, with a second summit in Hanoi in early 2019 breaking up over sanctions relief and what Pyongyang would be willing to give up in return.
The North remains under multiple international sanctions for its banned weapons programmes, which it says it needs to deter a possible US invasion.
Shortly before Biden's January inauguration, leader Kim decried the US as his country's "foremost principal enemy" and Pyongyang unveiled a new submarine-launched ballistic missile at a military parade.
So far, the North has refrained from carrying out any direct provocations since Biden was inaugurated, but is now beginning to amplify its rhetoric.
Seoul and Washington are security allies and kicked off joint military exercises last week.
That prompted the North Korean leader's influential sister Kim Yo Jong to warn the new US administration against "causing a stink at its first step" if it wants to "sleep in peace for coming four years".