UPDATED 4:55 PM PT — Wednesday, November 13, 2019
Defense Secretary Mark Esper said he is prepared to adopt a new approach to U.S. military activity on the Korean peninsula. Before departing for South Korea on Wednesday, Esper discussed ongoing diplomatic efforts to bring peace to North Korea.
Esper is embarking on a tour of Asia to discuss several pressing issues, including an intelligence sharing pact between South Korea and Japan that’s set to expire soon.
This comes as both nations — as well as the U.S. — continue to seek an end to North Korea’s nuclear ambitions. The rogue regime threatened to retaliate if the U.S. goes ahead with scheduled joint military drills with South Korea, which the U.S. wants to avoid.
“I think we have to be open to all those things that empower and enable our diplomats to sit down with the North Koreans — alongside with our South Korean partners — and move the ball forward to a negotiated settlement of the issues that we put on the table,” stated Esper.
The Defense Secretary went on to say the U.S. takes threats from North Korea very seriously, but at the same time wants to avoid overreacting and risk closing the door on diplomacy.
President Trump has met three times with Kim Jong Un in hopes of sealing a potentially historic denuclearization deal. He continues to express optimism about brokering an agreement.
“Kim Jong Un has been pretty straight with me, I think,” stated the president. “He likes testing missiles, but we never restricted short range missiles.”
Related: South Korea Says U.S. Working ‘Very Actively’ To Restart Talks With North Korea