Tillerson told China Thaad backlash is ‘uncalled for’

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Tillerson told China Thaad backlash is ‘uncalled for’

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson “strongly” conveyed to China during his Beijing visit that its retaliation against the deployment of the American antimissile system in Korea was “uncalled for,” said Joseph Yun, the American top nuclear envoy, Wednesday.

Yun, the U.S. special representative for North Korea policy, met with his South Korean counterpart, Kim Hong-kyun, at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in central Seoul, as the two discussed follow-up measures to put maximum pressure on Pyongyang for its nuclear and missile program following up on Tillerson’s visit to Northeast Asia last week.

According to Yun, Tillerson conveyed to Chinese officials and in private meetings that “retaliating against a defensive system, which China has done, was something that was uncalled for and something of a growing concern for us.”

Yun also said that he had the chance to discuss with Beijing the “shape of our review on North Korea, which is ongoing,” as well as the strong message delivered by Tillerson on the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, or Thaad.

The two envoys discussed cooperation to strengthen sanctions and pressure on North Korea, following up on Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se and State Secretary’s Tillerson’s talks last Friday, said the South Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs in a statement.

Amid a period where both governments are undergoing a review of North Korea policy, the two envoys to the six-party talks to denuclearize the North, defunct since 2008, agreed to make “speedy progress” on the North Korea issue.

The two sides “strongly condemned” North Korea’s “reckless provocations,” including its ballistic missile tests on Feb. 12 and March 6, the assassination of Kim Jong-nam, the estranged half brother of the North Korean leader in Malaysia on Feb. 13, Pyongyang’s testing of a new high-thrust engine on Saturday and again a failed missile launch on Wednesday.

Tillerson, during his joint press conference with the Korean foreign minister in Seoul last Friday, called China’s punitive actions against Seoul over Thaad, “unnecessary” and “troubling.” He said Washington hopes that “China would alter its position on punishing South Korea for Thaad.”

However, Tillerson did not mention the Thaad issue in his joint press conference with his Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi Saturday in Beijing, where he also met with President Xi Jinping Sunday.

“There was interest here on the level of the message Tillerson had on the North Korea nuclear and Thad issue during his visit to China, so it was significant for a high-ranking U.S. official to confirm this for the first time,” said a Korean Foreign Ministry official.

China was said to have replied that the message by Washington is “well-taken,” the official added, and that Korea and the United States “will closely observe what measures China takes in the future.”

Tillerson, during his visit to Beijing, called for China’s full and complete implementation of the UN Security Council resolutions.

Yun, a career diplomat who was born and raised in Seoul until the age of 10, previously served as U.S. ambassador to Malaysia until 2016.

BY SARAH KIM [kim.sarah@joongang.co.kr]

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