Secretary of State John Kerry signaled a willingness to engage in direct talks with North Korea while traveling through Asia over the weekend, provided the erratic regime in Pyongyang lives up to international obligations.
“The door has been open. Those conditions are known,” Kerry said in an interview in Tokyo with Andrea Mitchell, NBC Chief Foreign Affairs Correspondent and host of Andrea Mitchell Reports on msnbc. ”They’re the conditions of our government with respect to the requirement that they [North Korea] indicate they’re living up to the obligations that they have assumed.”
“I think there’s been so much rhetoric and so much intensity to the missiles and to the confrontation that sometimes the message gets lost,” Kerry continued. “So I think it never hurts to reinforce that a nation is prepared under the right circumstances when conditions are met to have appropriate negotiation.”
Tensions in the Korean peninsula remained high after weeks of bellicose rhetoric and nuclear threats. The region remained on alert as the North celebrated the 101st anniversary of the birth of its founder, Kim Il Sung, the grandfather of current North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, on Monday.
Kerry acknowledged failed efforts in the past to temper North Korea’s nuclear ambitions with economic rewards and sanctions.
“We don’t want to simply repeat history,” Kerry told Mitchell. “And there has been a history of, you know, just playing this game and then ultimately there’s cheating or a complete reneging. We are determined–I am determined–to try to find if there is a different formula.”
Kerry said he had spoken with Chinese leaders about finding a fresh approach and called on the country to do more to help resolve the North Korean crisis. Kerry labeled Beijing a “lifeline” to the isolated regime in Pyongyang.
“They have the greatest ability to have an impact on the North,” Kerry said of China, North Korea’s most powerful ally. “Instability is not in China’s interest…It’s not in anybody’s interest,” Kerry said. “So if we’re going to operate according to what’s in people’s interest, China’s and everybody else’s, I believe China needs to become more engaged in this effort.”
Kerry said in the interview before flying back to the U.S. on Monday that if North Korea did not launch a missile test, “that would mean perhaps we’re turning a corner and there’s a possibility of moving in a better direction.”
“Everybody understands the negative side of what happens if there is a shoot,” Kerry said. “And my hope is that we can move in a different direction here. China, I think, is serious about this. They understand the instability this is creating.”
Watch more of Andrea Mitchell’s interview with Secretary of State John Kerry here: