Tillerson: US ready for talks with North Korea ‘without precondition’
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Tuesday that the United States would be willing to meet for diplomatic talks with North Korea “without precondition,” in a show of good faith after the nation’s recent ballistic missile test.
“We’ve said from the diplomatic side, we’re ready to talk anytime North Korea would like to talk, and we’re ready to have the first meeting without precondition,” Tillerson said at an Atlantic Council event in Washington.
“Let’s just meet. We can talk about the weather if you want,” he added.
Tillerson’s remark appeared to represent a shift in approach for the State Department in dealing with the reclusive country. The U.S. has maintained that North Korea should come forward ready to give up its weapons before the U.S. would engage in dialogue.
“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 roadmap of what we might be willing to work toward,” Tillerson said.
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders responded to comments from Tillerson in a statement, saying that President Trump’s position on North Korea remains unchanged.
“The President’s views on North Korea have not changed. North Korea is acting in an unsafe way not only toward Japan, China, and South Korea, but the entire world. North Korea’s actions are not good for anyone and certainly not good for North Korea,” she said.
Trump has in the past chided Tillerson for “wasting his time” in pushing for negotiations with North Korea.
Tillerson had acknowledged that it would be unrealistic for Pyongyang to give up its nuclear weapons program before talks could begin, as the nation’s threat of war is one of its few bargaining chips.
“It’s not realistic to say that we’re only going to talk if you come to the table ready to give up your program,” Tillerson explained. “They have too much invested in it.”
North Korea broke several months of silence in November with its highest-ever intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) test, which experts have said could reach the East Coast of the U.S.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has called the new missile “the most powerful ICBM” and has vowed to strengthen the nation as a nuclear power.
Tillerson did specify, however, that there be a “period of quiet” on the nuclear front for bilateral discussion to commence.
“It’s going to be tough to talk if in the middle of our talks you decide to test another device,” he said.
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