Tillerson broke off during remarks to reporters about the administration’s strategy in Afghanistan to make an observation about the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
“I think it is worth noting, we have had no missile launches or provocative acts on the part of, or provocative actions, on the part of North Korea since the UN Security Council resolution
” sanctioning Pyongyang on August 5, Tillerson said Tuesday at the State Department.
“I am pleased to see that the regime in Pyongyang has demonstrated restraint,” Tillerson said. “We hope this is the signal we have been looking for, that they are ready to restrain provocative acts. And perhaps we are seeing a pathway in the near future to having some dialogue.”
Tillerson made the comments a day after the US began annual military exercises with South Korea which often rile North Korea. He also spoke just hours after the Treasury Department announced new sanctions
against Russian and Chinese firms that do business with North Korea, enabling it to fund its ballistic missile and nuclear programs.
Nerves in Asia were on edge in July after North Korea tested two ICBM missiles that could in theory reach the US mainland. The launches prompted the unanimous August vote in the Security Council to slap Pyongyang with sanctions that could slash its $3 billion export revenue by as much as one-third.
Then tensions soared in early August after President Donald Trump declared that North Korea would face “fire and fury like the world has never seen” if it continued to threaten the US. Pyongyang responded the next day with more threats, including a warning that it would target Guam. The threats have only continued.
A day before the US and South Korea began long-planned annual military exercises on Monday, North Korea warned that the US was risking an “uncontrollable phase of a nuclear war.” North Korean state-run media said that the country’s military could strike the US at anytime and that neither Guam, Hawaii nor the US mainland could avoid the “merciless strike.”
But as Tillerson pointed out Tuesday, the DPRK hasn’t taken any action. “I want to take note of that and acknowledge it,” Tillerson said. “We need to see more on their part but I want to it acknowledge the steps they have taken thus far. That it’s important to take note of it.”