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Kerry Emerges, Comments on Iran, China, South Asia

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry waves after speaking to reporters as he is discharged from Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, June 12, 2015.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Tuesday that the United States and other world powers involved in nuclear talks with Iran are not “fixated” on prior military aspects of Tehran's nuclear program as a deadline for a deal approaches.

“It is critical for us to know going forward that those activities have been stopped,” said Kerry, “and that we can account for that.”

Kerry commented during a video news conference from Boston, where he is recovering from injuries sustained in a May bicycling accident in France.

He said the United States and the other world powers negotiating with Iran would not “rush to an agreement for the sake of an agreement.”

“We are not going to sign an agreement that we don’t believe gets the job done,” he said.

Negotiators for Iran and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council and Germany, the so-called P5+1 group, are hoping to reach an agreement on Iran’s nuclear status by a June 30 deadline. Iran is seeking sanctions relief while world powers are seeking verifiable assurances that Tehran’s nuclear program is peaceful.

Kerry said he intended to join the talks in Vienna, Austria, after participating in a U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue in Washington next week.

The secretary has made few public appearances since he broke his right femur in last month’s accident. He returned to his Boston home last week after being hospitalized. During Tuesday’s appearance, Kerry appeared to be relaxed, wearing a dark suit jacket and a striped shirt.

State Department officials said Kerry had remained engaged on foreign policy issues during his recovery.

Concern on India-Pakistan

Kerry said he spoke by phone Tuesday with Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and expressed concern over a recent rise in tensions between Pakistan and India.

“It is of enormous concern to all of us for all the obvious reasons,” he said, regarding tensions between the two nuclear neighbors.

Relations between India and Pakistan have been tense for decades, but strains have increased since Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi took office in May 2014.

Kerry said Sharif was “forthcoming” and “direct.” He said they both welcomed additional dialogue on ways to reduce tensions.

China relations a priority

Kerry said he would be returning to Washington on Tuesday and would focus on China for the next few days, ahead of the seventh meeting of the U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue.

Vice Premier Wang Yang is among Chinese officials who will attend the three-day session in Washington.

The talks come amid heightened tensions between the U.S. and China over China’s alleged cybersecurity hacks as well as its controversial land reclamation efforts in the South China Sea.

Washington has voiced opposition to China’s construction in the region. Parts of the region are also claimed by the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan.

“I am confident that we are going to have a ‘full-throated’ discussion of all of the issues that confront us," said Kerry, referring to next week’s dialogue.

On Tuesday, China’s Foreign Ministry said some of the construction in the region known as the Spratly Islands would be completed in “upcoming days.” But, in a statement, the ministry also defended the construction as “lawful, reasonable and justified.” It said the goals included “satisfying the need for necessary military defense.”

A senior State Department official said that “China is alone” in the land reclamation effort. “There is nobody else in the region who is supportive of these efforts.”

The State Department official said that the U.S. welcomed China’s decision to stop some of the reclamation work, but that Beijing’s decision to continue to militarize reclaimed land was not helpful or productive.