Rex Tillerson reaffirms defense pledge, condemns North Korea rights violations

By Elizabeth Shim  |  Feb. 17, 2017 at 1:12 PM
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Feb. 17 (UPI) -- U.S. State Secretary Rex Tillerson pledged U.S. commitment to the defense of Japan and South Korea, including the assurance to provide extended nuclear deterrence to its allies, on the sidelines of the Group of 20 foreign ministers' meeting.

The meeting marks the first time Tillerson has met with both foreign ministers.

Tillerson, who was in Bonn, Germany, for ministerial-level talks of the 20 major world economies, also exchanged views with South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se and Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida on the recent assassination of Kim Jong Nam at an airport in Malaysia, South Korean newspaper Donga Ilbo reported Friday.

In a joint statement, the three diplomats agreed to draw international attention to the systematic and widespread violations of human rights in North Korea.

Tillerson and the others also condemned North Korea's ballistic missile test launch in the "strongest terms," and warned Pyongyang would face an even stronger response from the international community for violating United Nations Security Council sanctions resolutions.

The officials also showed support for a meeting of the representatives of the six-party talks, a forum for discussing North Korea denuclearization that includes China and Russia.

A South Korean diplomatic source who spoke anonymously to the Donga said that while the officials were approaching the Kim Jong Nam assassination "very cautiously" because the "investigation is still underway," they also agreed to "cooperate closely" with the international community on the case.

Tillerson also signaled interest in motivating China to build additional pressure on North Korea, according to Yonhap.

On Thursday during his news conference at the White House, U.S. President Donald Trump said North Korea is one of "really really important subjects."

"North Korea, we will take care of it, folks. We're going to take care of it all. I just want to let you know I inherited a mess," Trump said.

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