But looking at the defence secretary's actions, it's not clear that the United States fully recognises exactly what it is squandering with President Donald Trump's myopic and transactional focus on extracting higher payments from treaty allies in particular.
North Korea's top nuclear negotiator, Kim Myong Gil, said in a statement Thursday that Stephen Biegun, Washington's special envoy to the country, had sent Pyongyang a message through an unnamed third nation "hoping that the DPRK and the US would meet again within December for negotiations".
The U.S. defense chief urged North Korea "to return to the negotiating table without precondition or hesitation".
But the Stockholm meeting fell apart, with Kim Myong Gil saying the US side had failed to present a new approach. For the first time since the war, the relationship between the USA and South Korea might be getting a little tense. "Therefore, we have no willingness to meet", the official said, according to the KCNA report. "We have no willingness to have such negotiations".
Kim has issued an end-of-year deadline for the Trump administration to offer mutually acceptable terms for a deal to salvage the diplomacy while saying that the North would seek a "new path" if the United States persists with sanctions and pressure.
A spokeswoman for the U.S. State Department said Trump remained committed to making progress on agreements he reached with Kim Jong Un at a first summit in Singapore in June a year ago, namely "transformed relations, building lasting peace, and complete denuclearisation". The State Affairs Commission said Wednesday that North Korea was entitled to "self-defense rights" in the face of any perceived aggression, and said that though the regime desired dialogue, it would "recourse to force in kind".
The US and South Korea previous year cancelled several joint drills in the wake of the Singapore summit between President Donald Trump and the North's leader Kim Jong Un, but were due to carry out a combined air exercise later this month.
"GSOMIA is an important tool by which South Korea, the US and Japan share effective information, particularly in times of war".
Esper urged Japan and South Korea to save the General Sharing of Military Information Agreement, which allows the countries to directly exchange sensitive intelligence without going through the U.S. Trilateral cooperation is critical to countering the threat posed by North Korea and China, he said.
North Korea's statement also criticized Washington's support of a recent United Nations resolution condemning the North's widespread human rights violations, claiming that the resolution shows continued US intent to isolate the North and destroy its political system.
As uncertainty hangs over the troubled peace push, the United States and South Korea are simultaneously scrambling to clinch an agreement in the coming weeks to cover next year's costs of maintaining a 28,500-strong USA military presence aimed at deterring North Korea.
The North also has harshly criticized U.S.
South Korea, which decided in August to let the pact lapse without renewal over a trade feud with Japan, has said the GSOMIA issue should be considered separately from South Korea-U.S. relations.
"Kim Jong Un has been pretty straight with me, I think", stated the president. North Korea dubbed the resolution as "a political provocation" of the US. He risks alienating his progressive support base if he bows to USA and Japanese pressure by extending GSOMIA. -South Korea joint exercise in the border city of Yeoncheon, northeast of Seoul, on May 30, 2013.
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