Tillerson, White House send mixed signals over potential North Korea talks

Days after Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov revealed North Korea was prepared for direct talks with the U.S. over the nuclear impasse on the Korean peninsula, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson announced the Trump administration was open to talks with Pyongyang without precondition.

The White House swiftly responded to Tillerson’s remarks, saying the president’s position had not changed on a denuclearized North Korea before talks.

Buttressing the White House position, State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert insisted White House policy on North Korea remained unchanged.  Asked if the White House had shifted its position, Nauert responded:

“If they’re not willing to denuclearize? No. That remains our goal. Our overall goal is denuclearization.”

In a follow-up statement three days later, Tillerson appeared to reverse himself and stated talks with North Korea can only proceed after it ceases its threatening behavior.

“North Korea must earn its way back to the table.  The pressure campaign must and will continue until denuclearization is achieved. We will in the meantime keep our channels of communication open,” Tillerson said in a meeting with the UN Security Council.

Both Lavrov’s message from North Korea and Tillerson’s response come after North Korea’s third intercontinental ballistic missile test on Nov. 28, which landed off the west coast of Japan following the State Department’s return of North Korea to its state sponsors of terrorism list.

Although not independently verified, Pyongyang claimed the test solidified the North as a nuclear power and enabled it to strike the entirety of the U.S. mainland.

The test, North Korea’s first test in months, was Pyongyang’s 20th overall and seventh test of an actual missile.

 

[The Guardian] [ABC News] [Reuters] [Photo courtesy Yonhap/EPA via NBC News]