* U.S. ready to engage if North moves to drop nuclear arms
* Kerry says U.S. will protect Asia allies
* Washington seeks peaceful solution to standoff
* Kerry clarifies no deal over missile defence deployments
(Adds Kerry, McCain quotes)
By Arshad Mohammed and Kiyoshi Takenaka
TOKYO, April 14 U.S. Secretary of State John
Kerry on Sunday stressed the United States is willing to engage
with North Korea as long as it takes steps to give up nuclear
He also vowed Washington would protect its Asian allies
against any provocative acts by the North, but said it wants a
peaceful solution to rising tensions in the region.
"We are prepared to reach out but we need (the) appropriate
moment, appropriate circumstance," Kerry told a small group of
reporters, adding that North Korea had to take steps toward
giving up its nuclear programmes.
"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.
The North has threatened for weeks to attack the United
States, South Korea and Japan since new U.N. sanctions were
imposed in response to its latest nuclear arms test in February.
Speculation has mounted of a new missile launch or nuclear test.
"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 earlier told a news conference in Tokyo
after a meeting with his Japanese counterpart, Fumio Kishida.
Kerry was in Japan for the final stop on an Asian tour aimed
at solidifying support for curbing North Korea's nuclear
programme, and reassuring U.S. allies.
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."
Kerry also sought to clarify his comments made in Beijing on
Saturday, which some took to suggest he might be offering to
remove recently boosted missile defence capabilities in Asia if
China persuaded North Korea to abandon its atomic programmes.
The Pentagon in recent weeks has announced plans to position
two Aegis guided-missile destroyers in the western Pacific and a
Terminal High Altitude Area Defence (THAAD) missile defence
system in Guam.
"The president of the United States deployed some additional
missile defense capacity precisely because of the threat of
North Korea. And it is logical that if the threat of North Korea
disappears because the peninsula denuclearises, then obviously
that threat no longer mandates that kind of posture. But there
have been no agreements, no discussions, there is nothing
actually on the table with respect to that," Kerry said.
"TAKE THE MONEY AND RUN"
Kerry said he might consider using someone other than an
official U.S. government envoy to reach out to the North and he
left the door open to a negotiation with the North that might
not require them to take denuclearization steps in advance.
"If the Chinese came to us and said, 'look, here's what
we've got cooking and so forth,' I'm not going to tell you that
I'm shutting the door today to something that's logical and that
might have a chance of success," he said. "On the other hand,
what the standard is today is they have to take action."
Sen. John McCain, a Republican, voiced skepticism about the
resuming negotiations with the North.
"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,"
Japan's Kishida told the same news conference that the two
allies want Pyongyang to abandon its nuclear ambitions.
"We agreed that North Korea should cease provocative speech
and behaviour and show it is taking concrete action toward
denuclearisation," he said. "We cannot allow North Korea in any
way to possess nuclear weapons."
NORTH KOREA UNBENDING
Pyongyang, which was preparing to celebrate the birth date
of state founder Kim Il-Sung on Monday, reiterated it had no
intention of abandoning its atomic arms programmes.
"We will expand in quantity our nuclear weapons capability,
which is the treasure of a unified Korea ... that we would never
barter at any price," Kim Young-nam, North Korea's titular head
of state, told a gathering of officials and service personnel
applauding Kim Il-Sung.
The KCNA news agency also rejected as a "cunning trick"
South Korean President Park Geun-hye's suggestion last week of
holding talks with the North.
The South Korean capital, Seoul, displayed the calm it has
shown throughout the crisis. Residents strolled in bright
sunshine a day after the city's World Cup stadium was jammed
with 50,000 mostly young fans of local rapper Psy.
On Saturday, Kerry met leaders in China, the North's sole
diplomatic and financial benefactor, and said China and the
United States were committed to "the denuclearisation of the
Korean peninsula in a peaceful manner".
During his first stop in South Korea, where the United
States has 28,000 troops stationed, Kerry said North Korea,
furious at joint U.S.-South Korean military drills, would be
making a "huge mistake" if it were to launch a missile.
He also said China was in a position to influence the
North's policy and had to put "some teeth" into efforts to
persuade Pyongyang to alter its policies.
Japan, separated from North Korea by less than 1,000 km (625
miles) of water and a frequent target of its anger, is well
within range of North Korea's medium-range missiles.
Japanese news reports said Tokyo had sent Aegis-class
destroyers capable of missile interception to the Sea of Japan.
Patriot Advanced Capability-3 interceptor missiles have been
deployed at key locations in the capital and surrounding areas.
Kerry's agenda in Tokyo also included Japan's territorial
disputes with China, and the future of U.S. bases in Japan.
He repeated that while Washington took no position about the
ultimate sovereignty of tiny isles in the East China Sea
claimed by both China and Japan, the United States "opposed any
unilateral action that would somehow change the status quo".
A flare-up of the territorial row has raised fears of an
unintended military incident near the islands, known as the
Senkaku in Japan and the Diaoyu in China. The United States says
the islets fall under a U.S.-Japan security pact, but is keen to
avoid a clash in the economically vital region.
(Writing by Linda Sieg and Ron Popeski; Additional reporting by
Mari Saito in Tokyo and Jane Chung in Seoul; Editing by Jason