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White House defends Trump tweets on North Korea

White House defends Trump tweets on North Korea
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White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Monday defended President Trump’s weekend Twitter comments that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was “wasting his time” by negotiating with North Korea.

“We’ve been clear that now is not the time to talk,” Sanders said during the daily White House press briefing.

She said the only conversations the administration has had with Pyongyang are those that have been focused on returning Americans detained in that country such as Otto Warbier, the 22-year-old student who died in June shortly after his return from a 17-month imprisonment in North Korea.

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“Those were the type of conversations that this administration was willing to have. Beyond that there will be no conversations with North Korea at this time,” Sanders said.

Tillerson on Saturday said Washington was in direct talks with Pyongyang and had opened multiple channels of communication with North Korean officials.

But Trump wrote on Twitter on Sunday that Tillerson was “wasting his time trying to negotiate with Little Rocket Man,” referring to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

“…Save your energy Rex, we’ll do what has to be done!” Trump added.

Trump’s messages — which come amid growing tensions as Pyongyang continues to carry out missile tests in the region — seemed to undermine the State Department’s message of diplomacy.

When asked if Trump believes diplomacy is not worth pursuing in North Korea, Sanders responded that there is a difference between talking and diplomatic pressure.

“We still strongly support putting diplomatic pressure on North Korea, which we’re continuing to do, but now is not the time simply to have conversations with North Korea,” she said.

“We’ve encouraged all of our allies and partners to do more and we’re going to continue to keep all options on the table when it comes to that,” she said.