Dec. 15 (UPI) -- U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Friday appeared to walk back remarks he made earlier this week that there were no preconditions to restart talks with North Korea, saying instead that Pyongyang must "earn its way back" to negotiations.
Speaking at meeting of the U.N. Security Council in New York, Tillerson rebuked the North Korean representative's assertion that the United States is to blame for tensions between the two countries.
"There is no doubt that the DPRK's pursuit of a nuclear arsenal is in clear violation of international law, directly challenges the global nonproliferation regime, and greatly threatens international peace and security," he said, using an acronym North Korea uses to refer to itself.
Tillerson said North Korea must be "held accountable" for illegal detonation of nuclear devices and launching intercontinental ballistic missiles.
"There is but one party that has been targeted with punishment and penalties through the most vigorous regime sanction ever enacted, and that is the Kim [Jong Un] regime in North Korea. They alone are responsible for these tensions, they alone must take responsibility for these tensions, and they alone can solve these tensions," he added
Earlier this week, Tillerson said that while the United States cannot tolerate a nuclear-armed regime, it is unrealistic to expect the regime to dismantle its nuclear program before holding talks. He showed willingness to sit down with the North "with no preconditions."
He appeared to change course Friday, saying any talks must be preceded by a "sustained cessation of North Korea's threatening behavior." In the meantime, countries must continue sanctions to starve the nation of cash.
"North Korea must earn its way back to the table," Tillerson said. "The pressure campaign must, and will, continue until denuclearization is achieved. We will, in the meantime, keep our channels of communication open."