One day after U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson made a series of statements indicating an open willingness to engage in diplomatic talks with North Korea without any preconditions, the White House issued its own statement directly contradicting America’s top diplomat.
We’ve said from the diplomatic side, we’re ready to talk anytime North Korea would like to talk. We are ready to have the first meeting without precondition. Let’s just meet, and we can talk about the weather if you want.” Tillerson said before the Atlantic Council in Washington D.C. on Tuesday.
Immediately following Tillerson’s statements, White House officials declared that President Trump’s stance on North Korea hadn’t changed, but stopped short of contradicting the State Department head. On Wednesday, however, a spokesman for the White House National Security Council ended any ambiguity.
Given North Korea’s most recent missile test, clearly right now is not the time,” the unnamed spokesman told Reuters. “The administration is united in insisting that any negotiations with North Korea must wait until the regime fundamentally improves its behavior. As the secretary of state himself has said, this must include, but is not limited to, no further nuclear or missile tests.”
It would seem, then, that the State Department may not have had the president’s blessing in pursuing diplomatic talks with Kim Jong Un’s North Korean regime. In light of North Korea’s recent test of their latest Hwasong-15 intercontinental ballistic missile, and September’s detonation of the nation’s first hydrogen bomb, some could argue that the pursuit of a diplomatic resolution to heightening tensions with the reclusive and aggressive state is more important than ever. Others, however, could argue that these very activities warrant the harder line Trump has demonstrated toward Kim. The difference in trains of thought may well boil down to which American officials believe war with North Korea may already be a foregone conclusion, and which believe it can still be avoided.
The speech Tillerson gave effectively served as an open invitation to North Korea to begin setting the table for future diplomacy, the Secretary did not seem to share the White House’s sentiment regarding the need for Kim to meet behavioral prerequisites. In fact, he made it clear that early talks don’t even need to address the nuclear elephant in the room.
Talk about whether it’s going to be a square table or a round table, if that’s 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 said.
Tillerson also claimed that President Trump “has encouraged our diplomatic efforts” with North Korea – though that statement could be refuted by checking the president’s Twitter account.
I told Rex Tillerson, our wonderful Secretary of State, that he is wasting his time trying to negotiate with Little Rocket Man…” he posted on October 1st.
Image courtesy of the Associated Press