U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper, left, and Vietnamese Defense Minister Ngo Xuan Lich talk before a meeting in Hanoi, Vietnam Wednesday, Nov. 20, 2019. Esper is on a visit to Vietnam to strengthen the military relations with the Southeast Asian nation. (AP Photo/Hau Dinh)

US defense chief ends Asia tour with same troubles, risks

November 21, 2019 - 1:18 am

HANOI, Vietnam (AP) — U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper is ending an Asia tour with the same troubles he found on arrival last week on the Korean peninsula.

Together they pose risks to U.S. national security and to the future of Washington’s alliance with Seoul.

The toughest of these problems is North Korea’s refusal to restart negotiations with Washington on eliminating its nuclear weapons.

Esper had hoped that his decision to postpone a military flying exercise with South Korea would help nudge the North back to the negotiating table.

The North rejected the gesture.

Esper told reporters Thursday in Hanoi that he was disappointed by the North’s negative response.

He said: “I don’t regret trying to take the high road, if you will, and keep the door open for peace and diplomacy.”

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