Rex Tillerson Meets Southeast Asian Leaders to Ramp Up Pressure on North Korea

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson
AFP/File MANDEL NGAN

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is ramping up pressure on North Korea by meeting with Asian foreign ministers on Thursday in Washington, D.C.

It was Tillerson’s first meeting with the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), and he is expected to seek their support for taking the necessary steps to end North Korea’s nuclear weapons program.

Since President Donald Trump took office, North Korean President Kim Jong-un has fired seven missiles but his provocative actions date back to his installation as leader of that communist country.

“Saturday’s launch marked the 75th missile test since Kim Jong Un became leader of North Korea at the end of 2011, according to a Nuclear Threat Initiative database,” the Washington Post reported after the latest launch late last month.

Kim has also threatened a direct attack on the United States.

Last week, when the United States held the chairmanship of the United Nation’s Security Council, Tillerson called on the member nation’s to fully implement the sanctions already in place against North Korea.

Last month, North Korea’s foreign minister drafted a letter to the ASEAN warning of a “nuclear holocaust” if it refuses to join forces in opposition to the United States.

The March 23 letter North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong-Ho said the situation on the Korean Peninsula was “reaching the brink of war” because of Washington’s actions.

According to the Daily Mail, the letter was in response to U.S. military drills in the region.

Business Insider reported on Thursday that, despite the timeline of when the USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier would be present off the Korean Peninsula, “the carrier strike group has finally arrived in all its glory.”

Joined by the Republic of Korea’s capable Sejong the Great and Yang Manchun destroyers, the USS Wayne E. Meyer, USS Michael Murphy, and USS Stetham destroyers and the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Lake Champlain flanked the Vinson as F/A-18 Super Hornets flew overhead in a massive show of force. Together, the South Korean and U.S. ships represent some of the most potent missile defenses ever put to sea.

President Donald Trump has warned that there is a “chance” of a major conflict in the region if North Korea doesn’t halt its aggressions.

“There is a chance that we could end up having a major, major conflict with North Korea,” Trump said in an interview with Reuters on April 28. “Absolutely.”

But, Trump said, “We’d love to solve things diplomatically but it’s very difficult.”

All ASEAN members have diplomatic relations with North Korea and five have embassies there.

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