Rex Tillerson hopes for opening after North Korea 'restraint'

Rex Tillerson speaks during a briefing at the State Department in Washington, Aug 22, 2017.
Rex Tillerson speaks during a briefing at the State Department in Washington, Aug 22, 2017.PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON (AFP) - US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson acknowledged on Tuesday (Aug 22) that North Korea has shown a "level of restraint" in not conducting nuclear or missile tests since new UN sanctions were imposed.

And he expressed the hope that it was a sign of Pyongyang's readiness to enter peace and disarmament talks with Washington "sometime in the near future."

"I am pleased to see that the regime in Pyongyang has certainly demonstrated some level of restraint that we've not seen in the past," Tillerson told reporters in Washington.

"We need to see more on their part, but I want to acknowledge the steps they've taken thus far. I think it's important to take note of that."

Tensions between North Korea and the United States and its allies soared last month after Pyongyang tested two long-range missiles that appeared to bring US cities within its range.

US President Donald Trump vowed to respond with "fire and fury," raising fears of a devastating regional conflict, and the UN Security Council scrambled to impose new sanctions on the North.

Kim Jong-Un's regime later postponed a threat to fire missiles towards the US Pacific island territory of Guam, and Washington said it was open to dialogue if Pyongyang were to take steps to calm tensions.

On Tuesday, Tillerson suggested that progress can now be made.

"I think it is worth noting that we have had no missile launches or provocative acts on the part of North Korea since the unanimous adoption of the UN Security Council resolution," he said.

"And I want to take note of that. I want to acknowledge it."

"We hope that this is the beginning of this signal that we've been looking for - that they are ready to restrain their level of tensions, they're ready to restrain their provocative acts and that perhaps we are seeing our pathway to sometime in the near future having some dialogue."