BANGKOK— United States Secretary of State John Kerry has urged North Korea to stop threatening the region's peace and prosperity and end its nuclear missile program. During a speech in Tokyo the top U.S. diplomat said region-wide cooperation is needed in Asia, and that includes trying to build a partnership with North Korea.
At the end of his first trip to the Asia-Pacific as Secretary of State, John Kerry said it was increasingly clear that what happens here matters more than ever before.
In a speech at the Tokyo University of Technology, Kerry said the region was home to enormous opportunities but also challenges.
He said they needed to work together to ensure strong, fair, smart, and just growth.
"The presence of the United States in the Asia-Pacific and our network of alliances with Japan and South Korea, Australia, the Philippines and Thailand. These have already formed a fundamental platform," said Kerry. "But, many challenges remain. And, the most immediate among them, as we all know, is North Korea."
North Korea in December defied international warnings by launching a rocket.
It then responded to punitive United Nations sanctions by testing its third nuclear device and declaring the armistice that ended Korean War fighting null and void.
Pyongyang has since threatened to attack the United States, Japan, and South Korea. It views annual U.S.-South Korea military exercises as preparation for an invasion.
Kerry's speech Monday came at the end of four days of meetings with leaders in Beijing, Seoul, and Tokyo that focused on North Korea's provocations.
"One thing is certain - we are united. There can be no confusion on this point," stated Kerry. "The North's dangerous nuclear missile program threatens not only North Korea's neighbors but it threatens its own people and it threatens this concept of the Pacific Dream. The United States remains open to authentic and credible negotiations on denuclearization but the burden is on Pyongyang."
North Korea dismissed an offer by Seoul on Saturday for dialogue.
Kerry on Sunday offered to negotiate with Pyongyang if it took steps to abandon its nuclear weapons program.
In the U.S. Secretary's speech Monday he offered another incentive for diplomacy.
"All of our partners, all of them, have a role to play in supporting regional peace and prosperity. And, that includes trying ultimately to make a partner out of North Korea and make it a part of this vision," Kerry said.
Washington is rebalancing its diplomatic and military outreach towards the Asia-Pacific in recognition of the region's increasing economic and strategic importance to the United States. Authorities in Beijing have been wary of the effort, with some viewing it as a strategy that seeks to contain China.
Kerry said China's role in regional stability and growth is critical.
"The United States and the world benefit from a stable and prosperous China that assumes the responsibilities of a great power, a China that respects the will of its people, a China that plays a key role in world affairs but that also plays by the rules. We all have a stake in China's success just as China has a stake in ours," he said.
Kerry repeated commitments to defend Japan and welcomed its plan to enter the U.S.-led Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement on global trade.
He said as the world's biggest consumers of energy and biggest emitters of greenhouse gases, Pacific nations, including the U.S., have the responsibility to address climate change.
"I cannot emphasize it enough, this is not a choice. This is something we have to do together because climate change grows more and more serious and threatening and challenging by the day. And, it is one of the most obvious, shared challenges on the face of this planet," Kerry explained.
Kerry told the students climate change was not a local problem and noted calls for clean air on the streets of Beijing and drought affecting farmers from Indonesia to India to Indiana.
He also noted "exploding investments" by Chinese companies in cleaner and alternative energies.
The top U.S. diplomat praised a jump in Chinese energy investments in the U.S. from $1 million 10 years ago to $9 billion last year.