US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson slams North Korea missile test but still seeks talks

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has lashed out at North Korea for its latest missile tests. PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON (AFP) - US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson declared Sunday (Aug 27) that North Korea's latest missile test was a "provocative act" but said he still hopes to persuade Pyongyang to come to the negotiating table.

Earlier this month, Washington's top diplomat suggested a diplomatic opening might be close after North Korea reacted to a new round of United Nations sanctions with what he termed "some level of restraint".

And on Tuesday US President Donald Trump seized upon the lack of immediate North Korean missile tests as evidence that the country's leader Kim Jong-Un "is starting to respect us."

But on Saturday, true to recent form, North Korea test-fired three short-range ballistic missiles, with Kim apparently thumbing his nose at calls for him to send Washington a signal that he is serious about nuclear disarmament.

"The firing of any ballistic missile is a violation of UN Security Council resolutions," Tillerson told Fox News Sunday. "We do view it as a provocative act, a provocative act against the United States and our allies." But he added, "We continue to want the Kim regime to understand (there) is a different path that he can choose."

Asked whether he and Trump had been too quick to imagine that Kim might be ready to show restraint, Tillerson said: "I don't know that we are wrong ... I think it's going to take some time to tell."

"Clearly they are still messaging us as well that they are not prepared to completely back away from their position," he said.

"Having said that, we are going to continue our peaceful pressure campaign as I have described it," Tillerson said, "working with allies, working with China as well, to see if we can bring the regime in Pyongyang to the negotiating table, begin a dialogue on a different future for the Korean peninsula and for North Korea".

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