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Tillerson: 'We squandered the best opportunity we had on North Korea'

Tillerson: 'We squandered the best opportunity we had on North Korea'
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Former Secretary of State Rex TillersonRex Wayne TillersonBiden must wait weekend for State Department pick Tillerson: 'We squandered the best opportunity we had on North Korea' State Department sets up new bureau for cybersecurity and emerging technologies MORE in an interview published Monday said President TrumpDonald TrumpNYT: Rep. Perry played role in alleged Trump plan to oust acting AG Arizona GOP censures top state Republicans McCain, Flake and Ducey Biden and UK prime minister discuss NATO, multilateralism during call MORE’s summit meetings with North Korean leader Kim Jong UnKim Jong UnLike his predecessors, Biden faces a formidable task with North Korea North Korea displays ballistic missiles at parade Pelosi's risky blunder: Talking about Trump and nuclear war MORE “squandered the best opportunity we had on North Korea.” 

In the interview with Foreign Policy, which took place before a pro-Trump mob stormed the Capitol last week, Trump’s first secretary of State said he consistently disagreed with Trump’s disparagement of U.S. allies and engagement with authoritarian leaders, including Kim and Russian President Vladimir PutinVladimir Vladimirovich PutinRussian protesters pelt police with snowballs as more than 2,000 arrested Russia arrests hundreds of protesters demanding release of Kremlin critic Navalny What might have been, if Trump had not acted as his own worst enemy MORE

“The only rationalization I could come to was that he thought, ‘Well, if I disparage my allies and treat these bad guys as my friends, I’ll get more done with them in U.S. interests,’ ” Tillerson said. 

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“Maybe he thought, ‘I’ll let Kim know we’re big buddies, and he’ll give up his nuclear weapons. I’ll let Putin know we’re big buddies, and he’ll get out of Ukraine.’ That’s the only way I could rationalize it, but I really don’t know,” said Tillerson, who was fired by Trump in March 2018 following numerous clashes over foreign policy. 

“Nothing worked out,” Tillerson continued. “We squandered the best opportunity we had on North Korea. It was just blown up when he took the meeting with Kim, and that was one of the last straws between him and I.” 

The former CEO of ExxonMobil added, “with Putin, we didn’t get anything done. We’re nowhere with China on national security.”

“We’re in a worse place today than we were before he came in, and I didn’t think that was possible,” Tillerson said with just days left of the Trump administration before President-elect Joe BidenJoe BidenDC residents jumped at opportunity to pay for meals for National Guardsmen Joe Biden might bring 'unity' – to the Middle East Biden shouldn't let defeating cancer take a backseat to COVID MORE is set to take office. 

Tillerson also said that his job as secretary of State was made more difficult by Trump’s limited knowledge on U.S. foreign policy. 

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“His understanding of global events, his understanding of global history, his understanding of U.S. history was really limited,” Tillerson told the magazine. “It’s really hard to have a conversation with someone who doesn’t even understand the concept for why we’re talking about this.” 

Trump has held multiple meetings with Kim throughout his presidency, though the talks failed to achieve any progress on nuclear nonproliferation in North Korea. 

Continued U.S.-led sanctions on the country over its nuclear program have continued to cripple the already struggling nation’s economy. 

On Monday, Kim reportedly said in an address to the 8th Congress of the Workers' Party of Korea that North Korea’s activities should focus on bringing its "arch-enemy" the U.S. “to their knees,” while also threatening to expand the country’s nuclear arsenal, according to the country’s state media, the Korean Central News Agency. 

Tillerson previously criticized Trump’s foreign policy performance when in May 2019 the former secretary of State told lawmakers that Putin was more prepared than Trump for a key meeting in Germany. 

Trump fired back at Tillerson at the time, tweeting that his former Cabinet member was “dumb as a rock” and that his account that he was out-prepared by Putin was “made up.”