US rejects China call to halt military drills if North Korea stops missile tests


The United States has rejected China’s proposal for a halt to joint US-South Korean military exercises if North Korea suspends its nuclear and missile activities.

The US called North Korean leader Kim Jong Un irrational and demanded “positive action” before it can take his regime seriously.

In Washington, US State Department acting spokesman Mark Toner said: “At this point we don’t see it as a viable deal.”

Pentagon spokesman Cmdr Gary Ross said US activities to defend South Korea “cannot be equated to North Korea’s repeated violations of its obligations and agreements”.

The US ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, told reporters after an emergency Security Council meeting on North Korea’s latest ballistic missile launches that the US must see “some sort of positive action” by Kim’s regime before discussing ways to reduce tensions on the Korean Peninsula.

Earlier on Wednesday, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi proposed the suspension deal, likening escalating tensions between the North and Washington and Seoul to “two accelerating trains, coming toward each other with neither side willing to give way”.

The idea was rejected by South Korea and Japan as well as the US.

Ms Haley said the military drills are especially needed now after North Korea conducted two nuclear tests and 24 ballistic missile launches last year, and two sets of missile launches and the alleged assassination of Kim Jong Un’s estranged brother using a chemical weapon this year.

She also defended the upcoming deployment of a US missile defence system in South Korea, a move that has been strongly opposed by China. She said America would not leave its ally facing the threat from North Korea without help.

“We have not seen any goodwill at all coming from North Korea,” Ms Haley said. “I appreciate all my counterparts wanting to talk about talks and negotiations, (but) we are not dealing with a rational person.”

With any other country, the US would be seeking negotiations, she said.

“This is not a rational person, who has not had rational acts, who is not thinking clearly,” Ms Haley said of North Korea’s leader. “This is someone who is trying to get attention. This is someone who is trying to get a reaction.”

Ms Haley said the US is re-evaluating how it is going to deal with North Korea going forward “and we are making those decisions now and will act accordingly”.

“We’re not ruling anything out and we’re considering every option that’s on the table,” she said.

South Korean Ambassador Cho Tae-yul also rejected the idea of a North Korean nuclear freeze in exchange for halting US-South Korea military exercises, which he stressed are defensive in nature.

“Linking this exercise to anything else, which is illegal nuclear and missile provocation by North Korea, is inappropriate and unacceptable, and I think this is just trying to link the unsinkable,” he said.

“All kinds of options have been exhausted so far,” Mr Cho said. “So the only available means to change the North Korean behaviour fundamentally is to continue to keep up the pressure and sanctions on North Korea.”

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