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Kerry in Japan: US ready to 'reach out' to North Korea

Secretary of State John Kerry opened the door to direct disarmament talks with North Korea, but there is still no sign Kim Jong Un is prepared to stop testing nuclear weapons. NBC's Andrea Mitchell reports.

After weeks of increasingly hostile rhetoric, the U.S. is ready to “reach out” to North Korea’s leadership, Secretary of State John Kerry said in Japan on Sunday.

The Obama administration is just waiting for the right moment.


"We are prepared to reach out but we need (the) appropriate moment, appropriate circumstance," Kerry told reporters in Tokyo, according to pool reports.

America’s chief diplomat added that a key component of the talks would be North Korea taking steps toward giving up its nuclear programs.

"They have to take some actions. Now how many and how much I want to have a discussion with folks back in Washington (about)... but they have to take action," he added.

In Beijing, John Kerry tried to persuade China's President Xi Jinping to lean on his ally, North Korea - arguing that Pyongyang's erratic young leader is now threatening the stability of the entire region. NBC's Andrea Mitchell reports.

Lead by their untested young leader, Kim Jong Un, North Korea has for weeks threatened a preemptive nuclear strike against the United States, South Korea and Japan – angered by new U.N. sanctions that were slapped on the rogue nation in response to an underground nuclear test in February.

In recent days the North Koreans have readied missile launchers, and many observers believe that a launch — which could be a harmless test or aimed at one of their enemies — will come on Monday, which is when he nation celebrates the birth of founder Kim Il Sung, Jong Un’s grandfather.

But Kerry on Sunday tried to play down any rumors of war.

"I think it is really unfortunate that there has been so much focus and attention in the media and elsewhere on the subject of war, when what we really ought to be talking about is the possibility of peace. And I think there are those possibilities," Kerry told a news conference in Tokyo after a meeting with Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida.

Kerry said the United States would "do what was necessary" to defend its allies Japan and South Korea, but added: "Our choice is to negotiate, our choice is to move to the table and find a way for the region to have peace."

Sen. John McCain, a Republican, voiced skepticism about the resuming negotiations with the North.

The youngest son of Kim Jong Il succeeded his late father in 2011, becoming the third member of his family to rule the unpredictable and reclusive communist state.

"If we give them food, if we give them oil, if we give them money, they will come around and they take our money and run," he said.

Kerry was in Japan for the final stop on an Asian tour aimed at solidifying support for curbing North Korea's nuclear program, and reassuring U.S. allies

Meanwhile, South Korea displayed the calm it has shown throughout the crisis. In Seoul, residents on Sunday took leisurely walks on a day filled with bright sunshine, after the city's World Cup stadium was jammed with 50,000 mostly young fans of "Gangnam Style" rapper Psy.

Reuters contributed to this report.

Related: 

Full North Korea coverage from NBC News