April 21, 2018

White House contradicts Tillerson on North Korea, adding to confusion

16 December 2017, 01:48 | Simon Arnold

White House says not right time for talks with North Korea hours after Rex Tillerson offered direct dialogue

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson speaks during a forum on U.S.-South Korea relations at the Atlantic Council in Washington D.C. on Dec. 12

"Our policy remains exactly the same as it was", Ms Nauert said, calling diplomacy the administration's "top priority" and saying "we remain open to dialogue when North Korea is willing to conduct a credible dialogue on the peaceful de-nuclearisation of the Korean peninsula".

Mr Tillerson said on Tuesday that he was ready to open dialogue with Pyongyang, without preconditions.

Rex Tillerson, however, said: "We're ready to talk whenever they're ready to talk". We can talk about whether it is going to be a square table or a round table, if that is what you are excited about. "But can we at least sit down and see each other face to face and then we can begin to lay out a map, a road map, of what we might be willing to work towards".

He warned North Korea latest intercontinental missile test demonstrated they have the capability to advance their programme and that it can be expected of them to do the same in other elements on the integrated nuclear system.

"Tillerson seems to have sent a message that all should boil down to direct talks between the USA and North Korea", said Park Jeong-jin, vice director of the Institute for Far Eastern Studies. "North Korea's actions are not good for anyone and certainly not good for North Korea".

In August, then-White House advisor Sebastian Gorka criticised Mr Tillerson after the secretary of state attempted to moderate President Trump's remarks on North Korea.

"Clearly right now is not the time", an unnamed National Security Council official told Reuters.

Tillerson said the USA has assured China that in the event that American troops had to cross north of the demilitarized zone separating the two Koreas, it would retreat back south once stability returned. "Our military preparedness is strong... the president has ordered our military planners to have a full range of contingencies, and they are ready", he told the Atlantic Council. "As I have told people many times, I will continue our diplomatic efforts until the first bomb drops". "I'm confident that we're gonna be successful".

Tillerson stressed the US would not accept a nuclear-armed North Korea, as it flouts global norms and might spread weapons technology to non-state groups in ways that other nuclear powers have not.

"North Korea is acting in an unsafe way not only toward Japan, China, and South Korea, but the entire world".

"It surely is out of line with the U.S.' previous posture and seems to be moving toward the North's demand to some extent", said James Kim, a researcher at the Asan Institute for Policy Studies. "The last time the North Koreans came to the table was because China cut off the oil".

Reported by RFA's Korean Service.

He said the North would need to hold off on its weapons testing. Food prices have shot up 160 percent since April. A key pillar of the Trump Administration's strategy is pressuring China into imposing sanctions on Pyongyang - specifically, as Tillerson stated on December 12, the president "would like to see" China to stop supplying North Korea with oil. China, which has desperately sought to prevent an implosion in Pyongyang, is now preparing for the worst.

Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov reportedly approved of Tillerson's comments, according to Russian state news agency Interfax.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson talks to members of the media at the State Department in Washington, DC, U.S. on November 20, 2017.

"We are ready to talk any time North Korea would like to talk".

Such guarantees are unlikely to convince Beijing, which is deeply concerned at the possibility of the United States installing a puppet regime in Pyongyang. After a close briefing on his return, Sweden's deputy United Nations ambassador Carl Skau pessimistically declared: "Nothing was said that left us less anxious than we were before".

There have been rumours in recent weeks that the White House has batted down rumours that Mr Trump was seeking to replace Mr Tillerson.

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