Pentagon chief calls on N. Korea to return to talks, but warns U.S. is ready to fight
Updated: 2020-01-03 16:08:54 KST
U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper has urged restraint from North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, calling on him to return to nuclear negotiations with Washington.
In an interview with Fox News on Thursday, Esper said the U.S. still believes a political agreement on denuclearization is the best option.
"We think the best path forward with regard to North Korea is a political agreement that denuclearizes the Korean Peninsula. We are on that path. We want to remain on that path."
But maintaining a sharp edge, the Pentagon chief said U.S. forces are ready to fight even "tonight" if needed.
He went on to say that the U.S. maintains close coordination with South Korea in deterring North Korean aggression.
"We have a full array of forces. They are ready, the are air, naval, marine, army forces."
This comes after Kim hinted earlier this week that Pyeongyang will take a hardline stance against Washington, warning that it will soon reveal a "new strategic weapon" which many experts believe to be an intercontinental ballistic missile.
Following those remarks, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also told Fox News on New Year's Eve, that he hopes that Kim will do right by choosing peace and prosperity over conflict and war.
President Trump also said he expects the regime's leader to stick to his promise to denuclearize.
With the North escalating tensions as negotiations have been stalled for nearly a year, the U.S. is seen to be sending a tough message to prevent the regime from deviating back to provocations.
To discuss the recent situation on the Korean Peninsula with his counterparts, South Korea's Deputy Foreign Minister Kim Gunn travelled to Washington on Thursday.
Kim is scheduled to meet U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs David Stilwell and White House National Security Council Senior Director for Asian Affairs Allison Hooker during his visit.
They're also expected to exchange views on other bilateral issues, including the defense cost-sharing for American troops stationed in Korea.