Tillerson: US 'continues to be interested' in North Korea talks

Tillerson: US 'continues to be interested' in North Korea talks
© Keren Carrion

Secretary of State Rex TillersonRex Wayne TillersonThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by AT&T - Supreme Court lets Texas abortion law stand Trump-era ban on travel to North Korea extended Want to evaluate Donald Trump's judgment? Listen to Donald Trump MORE said Tuesday that the United States was still interested in talks with North Korea, but he put the onus on North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

"We continue to be interested in trying to find a way to get to dialogue, but that's up to him," Tillerson told reporters.

Tillerson’s comments come after Kim tabled a plan to fire a salvo of missiles toward the U.S. territory of Guam, appearing to signal a path to defusing the crisis.


Amid a heated war of words between President Trump and Pyongyang last week, North Korea threatened to fire missiles into waters off the coast of Guam, which would be the country’s most provocative missile launch to date.

North Korean state media said Tuesday that Kim received the plans from his military leadership, but said he will wait and see how the United States acts before deciding whether to order the missile launch.

Kim was quoted as saying he will conduct the launches if the "Yankees persist in their extremely dangerous reckless actions on the Korean Peninsula and its vicinity.”

Tillerson said Tuesday he had “no response” to Kim’s decision on Guam.

Tillerson has previously said the United States is open to talks with North Korea if the military halts its missile tests.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in, who has previously said he favors engagement with North Korea, also said Tuesday the nuclear standoff “absolutely” should be solved peacefully and that North Korea can create conditions for dialogue by freezing it nuclear and missile tests.

"Our government will put everything on the line to prevent another war on the Korean Peninsula," Moon said, according to The Associated Press. "Regardless of whatever twist and turns we could experience, the North Korean nuclear program should absolutely be solved peacefully, and the [South Korean] government and the U.S. government don't have a different position on this."

Kim’s decision on Guam came after Defense Secretary James MattisJames Norman MattisThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Senate nears surprise deal on short-term debt ceiling hike Overnight Defense & National Security — Pentagon chiefs to Congress: Don't default Pentagon chiefs say debt default could risk national security MORE warned that a missile launched at the United States or its territories would be considered an act of war.

“If they shoot at the United States, I’m assuming they hit the United States. If they do that, it’s game on,” Mattis said Monday.

Still, pressed on whether missiles launched into the waters off Guam would be included, Mattis was more ambiguous.

“Then it becomes an issue that we take up however the president chooses,” Mattis said when asked what would happen if a missile falls into the sea near Guam, rather than on Guam itself. 

“You can't make all those kinds of decisions in advance. There's a host of things going on. There's allies that we consult with, as the president made very clear last week. We talked about our allies repeatedly in a statement. That's something we have to think of. But we're getting into hypotheticals and this sort of thing. You know, I need a certain amount of ambiguity on this, because I'm not going to tell them what I'm going to do in each case.”