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US wants North Korea nuclear talks, says Rex Tillerson

The United States will seek talks with North Korea over the reclusive state's nuclear weapons programme, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has said.

He is meeting with key allies Japan and South Korea before chairing a ministerial meeting of the UN Security Council.

It comes after President Donald Trump warned a "major, major conflict" between the two countries was "absolutely" possible.

Mr Trump has ramped up international tensions in recent weeks after declaring he would solve the North Korea problem with or without China's help.

During a visit to Seoul last week, Vice-President Mike Pence declared that the "era of strategic patience" was over and "all options" were being considered.

This is a departure from the Obama era policy of economic sanctions and diplomatic isolation.

In the address, Mr Tillerson is due to discuss the steps the US believes are needed to "further isolate" Pyongyang to get it to halt nuclear and missile testing.

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North Korea has remained belligerent about its nuclear programme despite repeated warnings from the international community.

On Thursday the state propaganda arm released footage of simulated attacks on the White House and US aircraft carriers, declaring "the enemy to be destroyed is in our sights".

A US Pacific Commander told the House Armed Services Committee that Pyongyang could soon develop long-range missiles capable of striking the US.

Admiral Harry Harris said: "Just as Thomas Edison is believed to have failed 1,000 times before successfully inventing the light bulb, so, too, Kim Jong-un will keep trying".

Earlier on Friday US ambassador to the UN's Committee on Disarmament, Robert Wood, told reporters North Korea was the greatest threat to the 47-year-old Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

He said the US will be "focused like a laser" on a meeting of the treaty's signatories next week in Vienna, Austria.

The US expects a "strong course of condemnation" from attendees, he added.

The diplomatic call comes after weeks of escalation by the US after Mr Trump announced an "armada" of US navy ships, including aircraft carrier USS Vinson, were to sail to North Korean waters.

Meanwhile, Seoul and Washington continued with plans to implement the joint THAAD anti-missile system in South Korea despite protests from Beijing which said it could potentially threaten it.

China has indicated it is more willing to discuss sanctions against Pyongyang, the Kim regime is economically dependent on it, despite its previous reluctance to destabilise its neighbour.

Beijing fears an influx of refugees on the border and regards North Korea as a useful buffer as South Korea currently hosts nearly 30,000 US military personnel.

Independent News Service

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