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Few Good Options Exist on N. Korea if Pressure Fails, Tillerson Says


FILE - U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, shown testifying before a congressional committee, June 13, 2017, says "we have not given up hope" that North Korea can be persuaded to give up its nuclear program.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Friday that there would not be many good options left for dealing with North Korea if the peaceful pressure campaign the United States has been pushing to curb Pyongyang's nuclear and missile programs failed.

"We have not given up hope," Tillerson told reporters after U.S. President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin met on the sidelines of a summit of the Group of 20 developed nations, just days after North Korea conducted what it said was its first test of an intercontinental ballistic missile.

Tillerson said the U.S. approach of stepping up pressure on North Korea through sanctions required patience.

"I call it the peaceful pressure campaign. ... This is a campaign to lead us to a peaceful resolution, because if this fails, we don't have very many good options left," he said.

"It's one that requires calculated increases in pressure, allow the regime to respond to that pressure, and it takes a little time to let these things happen."

Tillerson said Trump and Putin differed about how to deal with North Korea's weapons programs in their talks, but Washington would continue to press Moscow to do more to curb Pyongyang's activities.

"The Russians see it a little differently than we do, so we're going to continue those discussions and ask them to do more. Russia does have economic activity with North Korea," he said.

The United States, Japan and South Korea agreed Friday to push for a quick U.N. Security Council resolution to apply new sanctions on North Korea. But the three nations might struggle to persuade Russia and China, permanent members of the Security Council, to back quick sanctions.

U.N. diplomats said Friday that the United States had given China a draft sanctions resolution.

Russia on Thursday objected to a Security Council condemnation of North Korea's missile launch because the U.S.-drafted statement labeled it an ICBM, a designation that Moscow disagrees with. Diplomats said Friday that negotiations on the statement had stalled.

Tillerson said a Chinese-Russian proposal for the United States to suspend military exercises with South Korea in return for a freeze on North Korean weapons testing was unacceptable because it would freeze North Korea's programs at too high a level of capability.

"We're asking North Korea to be prepared to come to the table with an understanding that these talks are going to be about 'How do we help you chart a course to cease and roll back your nuclear program?' That's what we want to talk about.

"We're not interested in talking about 'How do we have you stop where you are today?' "

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