Tillerson: US wants to 'sit and have a dialogue' with North Korea

Tillerson: US wants to 'sit and have a dialogue' with North Korea
© Greg Nash

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Tuesday said the United States wants to “have a dialogue” with North Korea.

Speaking to reporters at the State Department, Tillerson also appeared to contradict President Trump over China’s role in reining in Pyongyang, saying the United States does not hold China responsible for the current situation.

“We certainly don’t blame the Chinese for the situation in North Korea,” he said. “Only the North Koreans are to blame for this situation.

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“We are trying to convey to the North Koreans, we are not your enemy, we are not your threat, but you are presenting an unacceptable threat to us, and we have to respond,” he added later. “And we hope that at some point, they would begin to understand that and then we would like to sit and have a dialogue with them about the future that will give them the security they seek and the future economic prosperity for North Korea.”

Tillerson’s comments come days after North Korea carried out its second test of an intercontinental ballistic missile.

Analysts have said the test appeared to show the continental United States is now within Pyongyang’s range, though there are still technological hurdles to surmount before it can reliably hit the United States. For example, video caught by a Japanese weather camera showed the re-entry vehicle breaking up as the missile descended.

After the test, Trump lashed out at China, saying on Twitter the country has done “nothing.”

"I am very disappointed in China. Our foolish past leaders have allowed them to make hundreds of billions of dollars a year in trade, yet they do NOTHING for us with North Korea, just talk," Trump wrote in a pair of tweets Sunday. "We will no longer allow this to continue. China could easily solve this problem!”

On Tuesday, Tillerson said the administration has been pursuing “peaceful pressure” on the government of North Korean leader Kim Jung Un up to now.

Tillerson also said China has been “very clear” that it shares the same objective as the United States of a denuclearized Korean peninsula.

But, Tillerson said, the United States believes China has a “special and unique” relationship that can influence North Korea in ways others can’t.

“That’s why we continue to call upon them to use that influence with North Korea to create the conditions where we can have a productive dialogue,” he said.

In March, Tillerson ruled out negotiations, saying talks “can only be achieved by denuclearizing, giving up their weapons of mass destruction.”

On Tuesday, despite saying the United States wants a dialogue with North Korea, Tillerson said he doesn’t think it would be productive if North Korea comes to the table thinking they will be able to keep their nuclear capabilities.

“This is going to be a continued effort to put every greater pressure on the North Korean regime,” he said, “because our other options obviously are not particularly attractive.”