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

Cheryl Sanders
December 13, 2017

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the USA is ready to talk with North Korea without preconditions.

Tillerson offered to meet the North Koreans without preconditions and said it was it "unrealistic" to expect the nuclear-armed country to come to the table ready to give up a nuclear weapons program that it invested so much in developing.

But elsewhere in his remarks, Tillerson insisted the US- led pressure campaign of economic and diplomatic sanctions would continue until "the first bomb drops".

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.

While reiterating Washington's position that it can not accept a nuclear-armed North Korea, Tillerson said the United States was "ready to talk any time they're ready to talk". It flew higher and farther than any previous test, and demonstrated that North Korea had the ability to hit "everywhere in the world", Defense Secretary James Mattis said at the time.

At the Atlantic Council, Tillerson said the question was about how to "begin the process of engagement, because we are dealing with a new leader in North Korea who no one has ever engaged with".

United Nations political affairs chief Jeffrey Feltman, who visited Pyongyang last week, said senior North Korean officials did not offer any type of commitment to talks, but he believes he left "the door ajar".

Contrasting with that diplomatic foray, the United States held joint military drills with South Korea that Pyongyang characteristically blasted as an act of aggression. "We can talk about whether it's going to be a square table or a round table".

In a rare admission of discussion of a highly sensitive topic, Tillerson said Washington has discussed with Beijing how North Korea's nuclear weapons might be secured in case of instability there.

Tillerson said that the USA has assured China that in the event that American troops had to cross northward of the demilitarized zone separating the two Koreas, it would retreat back south once stability returned.

"But can we at least sit down and see each other face to face, and then we can begin to lay out a map, a roadmap of what we might be willing to work towards", Tillerson said.

Tillerson added later, "If there was any condition at all to this is that, 'Look, it's going to be tough to talk if in the middle of our talks you decide to test another device.'" There needed to be a "period of quiet", he said, "or it's going to be very hard to have productive discussions".

Daryl Kimball, executive director of the non-partisan Arms Control Association, said Tillerson's proposal was overdue but that "in order to get to such talks going, the USA side as well as North Korea must demonstrate more restraint". She says the Trump administration has been sending mixed signals with the president once tweeting that Tillerson is wasting his time.

Tillerson - whose influence has appeared to wane within the administration - said in his speech that Trump "has encouraged our diplomatic efforts".

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 that China had made contingency plans to accommodate North Korean refugees in the event of a conflict.

Other reports by iNewsToday