Tillerson: US Willing to Talk to N. Korea Without Preconditions

13 December, 2017, 06:37 | Author: Diane Mills
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The United States is ready to begin talks on North Korea's nuclear disarmament without prior conditions, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said today.

Tillerson's remarks came two weeks after North Korea conducted a test with a missile that could potentially carry a nuclear warhead to the U.S. Eastern Seaboard — a milestone in its decades-long drive to pose an atomic threat to its American adversary that Trump has vowed to prevent, using military force if necessary.

"We can talk about whether it's going to be a square table or a round table if that's what you're excited about", Tillerson said at the Atlantic Council in Washington Tuesday. "We want you to make a different approach".

Tillerson said it wasn't workable to demand that North Korea give up its weapons before talks begin, and that US President Donald Trump agrees.

Tillerson did also say, however, that North Korea has to come to the table "with a view they want to make a different choice" on its weapons programs.

Despite the willingness to reach a diplomatic solution, the Secretary of State did not weaken the stance of the United States, insisting that North Korea must be willing to consider denuclearization.

The new message stands in contrast to President Donald Trump's warnings that talks have failed and that Tillerson was wasting his time - another sign of policy difference between the president and his top diplomat. Mr Tillerson said any talks would have to occur amid a "period of quiet", noting that it would be "tough to talk if in the middle of our talks you decide to test another device".

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With both the United States and North Korea pushing for dialogue, watchers say the two sides might finally have an opportunity to quell tensions through diplomatic channels. Tillerson also said the United States was working to tighten enforcement of worldwide sanctions against North Korea, especially further measures that China can apply, and that Washington had a full menu of military options if such a response is needed. "We are ready to have the first meeting without precondition". The Hwasong-15 missile that was launched November 29th is believed to put the entire continental United States within the range of the North Korea's nuclear weapons.

This appeared to represent a softening in the USA position, seeing as officials had previously demanded that Kim Jong-Un's regime demonstrate a willingness to consider giving up their arsenal.

"It's not realistic to say we are only going to talk if you come to the table ready to give up your program", Tillerson said. "They have too much invested in it", he said.

At least half his address was devoted to walking State Department employees through global events of the year, starting with the challenge of North Korea.

Tillerson said there were other uncertainties, given that "we are dealing with a new leader in North Korea that no one ever engaged with "He clearly is not like his father, nor is he like his grandfather", he said, referring to North Korea's last two leaders". He said Beijing had been given assurances that if USA forces had to cross into North Korea they would pull back across the border into the South. "I have to understand how do they process, how do they think", he added.

"We have a strong military presence standing behind us", Tillerson said of his diplomatic efforts.

"That is our commitment we made to them".


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