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US Has No Plans to Halt Joint Drills Near Korean Peninsula Ahead of Olympics

© Photo : public domainUSS Nimitz (CVN-68), a US Navy aircraft carrier
USS Nimitz (CVN-68), a US Navy aircraft carrier - Sputnik International
On December 12, the Financial Times reported that Seoul has asked Washington to delay joint military exercises until after the 2018 Winter Olympics in the South Korean city of Pyeongchang to avoid potential provocations from North Korea during the Games.

WASHINGTON (Sputnik) — The White House has not refused to hold talks with North Korea, however, Washington has observed that Pyongyang is not willing to talk, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said during a joint press conference with his Canadian counterpart Chrystia Freeland.

Rex Tillerson emphasized that until North Korea does come to that conclusion, the pressure campaign on the country will only intensify.

"The White House position on talks, they have not rejected diplomatic talks. What the White House has merely observed is North Korea has not exhibited a willingness to talk," Tillerson said. "I think the White House position is quite clear. The White House supports diplomatic talks. The observation [that] is being made, and I would agree with the observation, is we are waiting on North Korea to come to that conclusion."

Rex Tillerson also said that the United States was not planning to pause its joint military drills near the Korean Peninsula ahead of the upcoming Olympic Games.

"I am unaware of any plans to halt our long-standing and scheduled and regular military exercises with our partners in South Korea, the Republic of Korea, or with our partners in Japan," Tillerson said, when asked whether the United States is considering halting joint military exercises in the lead up to the Olympics.

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Tillerson said that these exercises have been carried out on a scheduled basis for many years.

“We announce them in advance. There is nothing surprising about them. I am not aware of any plans to change what is scheduled," he added.

Meantime, Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland told reporters during a joint press conference that the United States and Canada will co-host a ministerial meeting in Vancouver to discuss countering North Korea’s nuclear threat.

"The secretary of state and I have agreed that on January 16 Canada and the United States will co-host in Vancouver a meeting of foreign ministers from around the world in a demonstration of international solidarity against North Korea’s dangerous and illegal actions," Freeland said on Tuesday.

Tillerson added that at the ministerial meeting in Vancouver, leaders will discuss how to improve the effectiveness of the ongoing pressure campaign on North Korea and how to prepare for the possibility of returning to the negotiation table with Pyongyang.

Last week, In a speech at the 2017 Atlantic Council-Korea Foundation Forum, Rex Tillerson said the United States may be ready to hold a first meeting with North Korea without any preconditions.

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However, the White House issued a statement saying US President Donald Trump’s views on North Korea have not changed and Pyongyang is acting in an unsafe way not only toward South Korea and Japan, but toward the entire world.

On Friday, Russian Ambassador to the United Nations Vassily Nebenzia told the Security Council that Moscow is calling on the United States to refrain from new military drills and urging Pyongyang to end its missile test in order to deescalate the situation.

Tensions on the Korean Peninsula have escalated this year as North Korea continues to conduct nuclear and ballistic missile tests in violation of UN Security Council resolutions. In response, UN Security Council imposed the toughest sanctions on North Korea, targeting the country’s various industries. The United States and its allies have conducted massive military exercises in South Korea and in the vicinity of the Korean peninsula, deploying in the region at least two aircraft carrier strike groups.

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