Tillerson to North Korea: America is not your enemy

The US Secretary of State says America first does not mean America alone

Tillerson to North Korea: America is not your enemy

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson speaks in Washington, DC | Image: US State Department

The US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has said his country is not an enemy of North Korea.

The reclusive country fired a ballistic missile into the Sea of Japan last week.

The launch came less than a month after the state tested its first long-range missile, which was allegedly capable of carrying a "large, heavy nuclear warhead".

Analysts said the "landmark" Hwasong-14 missile, which flew for around 40 minutes, could reach Alaska.

During a media briefing in Washington DC, he said North Korea was "one of the first threats we were confronted with upon entering office."

He said: "That threat has materialized in the ways that we expected it would. And that’s why early on we identified it as a very urgent matter, and the North Koreans have certainly proven the urgency of that to us.

"We initiated a sustained and continued intensified campaign on what I like to call peaceful pressure, because the options available to us, I think as all of you well understand, are limited, and particularly if we think we are operating under a short period of time.

"We have reaffirmed our position towards North Korea, that what we are doing, we do not seek a regime change; we do not seek the collapse of the regime; we do not seek an accelerated reunification of the peninsula; we do not seek an excuse to send our military north of the 38th parallel.

"And we’re trying to convey to the North Koreans we are not your enemy, we are not your threat, but you are presenting an unacceptable threat to us, and we have to respond."

He also called on China to do more.

"China has ways that they can put pressure on and influence the North Korean regime because of this significant economic relationship that no one else has.

"We’ve been very clear with the Chinese we certainly don’t blame the Chinese for the situation in North Korea. Only the North Koreans are to blame for this situation.

"But we do believe China has a special and unique relationship because of this significant economic activity to influence the North Korean regime in ways that no one else can."

Speaking more broadly about the US foreign policy of the Trump administration, Mr Tillerson said: "I think the president has been clear though that when we say America first it doesn’t mean America alone, and we do value our friends and allies; we value our partners.

"And we recognize and acknowledge our adversaries and our enemies, and we tend to think about our relationships in those types of terms. But as we have said, America first is not America alone."