Tillerson returns to tough talk on North Korea at UN council

Tillerson returns to tough talk on North Korea at UN council
© Keren Carrion

Secretary of State Rex TillersonRex Wayne TillersonPompeo working to rebuild ties with US diplomats: report NYT says it was unfair on Haley curtain story Rubio defends Haley over curtains story: Example of media pushing bias MORE returned to sharp language against North Korea at the United Nations on Friday, telling a Security Council session that the United States would accept no North Korean preconditions to negotiations over the country's nuclear program.

In his remarks before the Security Council reported by The Washington Post, Tillerson backed away from his statements earlier this week in which he appeared to be open to talking with North Korea without the country agreeing to a freeze on its nuclear program.

On Friday, Tillerson amended those remarks and said that any conversation with North Korea must follow a “sustained cessation of North Korea’s threatening behavior.”

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“The international community remains firm in our determination that we will not accept a nuclear North Korea,” Tillerson told the Security Council.

“The DPRK has a choice,” Tillerson added. “It can reverse course, give up its unlawful nuclear weapons programs, and join the community of nations, or it can continue to condemn its people to poverty and isolation.”

In brief remarks to reporters after his Security Council appearance, the State Department chief doubled down on the Trump administration's position that the U.S. would not freeze military drills off the Korean Peninsula in exchange for a halt in North Korea's weapons program.

"With respects to the talks, we will not accept preconditions. You've heard others called for freeze-for-freeze. We do not accept a freeze for freeze as a precondition," Tillerson said at the press conference. "We do not accept any relaxation of the sanctions regime as a precondition of talks. We do not accept a resumption of humanitarian assistance as a precondition to talks."

"But as I indicated in my remarks, our communication channels remain open," Tillerson added. "North Korea knows they're open, they know where the door is, they know where to walk through that door when they want to talk."

North Korea has accelerated its weapons program in recent months, with a November missile test traveling higher than any previous attempt. North Korea's government claims the regime's latest missile designs have the capability to strike the U.S. mainland.