US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (2nd R) and Defense Secretary James Mattis (R) poses with Japan's Foreign Minister Taro Kono (2nd L) and Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera (L) ahead of the start of the US-Japan Security Consultative Committee in August. Photo: Reuters / Mandel Ngan

Taro Kono, Japan’s foreign minister, has reportedly characterized current inter-Korean talks and North Korea’s participation in the Olympics as a scheme by Pyongyang to buy time.

Kono made the comments on Tuesday at a foreign ministers’ meeting on security and stability on the Korean Peninsula in Vancouver, Canada attended by major US allies.

“They simply want to get something out of this dialogue,” said Kono, who nonetheless said he welcomed the moves. Korea JoongAng Daily quoted Kono as saying that the regime had four main intentions: to get sanctions lifted by some countries; to obtain some financial assistance in whatever form; to cancel military exercises between the US and South Korea; and to drive a wedge between “tough countries and those that are not so tough.”

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson also attended the Vancouver meeting. He said it was “time to talk” with North Korea, but stipulated that Pyongyang would have to come to the table with decisive steps to denuclearize.

Failing to engage or negotiate, on the other hand, could trigger a military response from the US, Tillerson warned.

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