White House reins in Tillerson's offer to start North Korea talks
The White House and State Department both stated Wednesday that the US is not ready to begin talks with North Korea, a day after Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had suggested the two sides could start negotiating without preconditions.
Tillerson's offer Tuesday to "sit down and see each other face to face" seemed to signal a shift in State Department policy, but US officials have since emphasized that North Korea has not yet demonstrated it is serious about talks or changing its behavior.
"We are open to the possibility of dialogue with North Korea, with the aim of denuclearizing the Korean peninsula. But North Korea must first refrain from any further provocations and take sincere and meaningful actions toward denuclearization," a National Security Council spokesperson told CNN.
"As the secretary of state has said, this must include -- but is not limited to -- no further nuclear or missile tests," the spokesperson said, adding, "Given North Korea's most recent missile test, clearly now is not the time."
Tillerson's specific reference to "no preconditions" has raised questions as to whether a rift exists within the Trump administration over possible negotiations with Pyongyang.
"We've said from the diplomatic side, we're ready to talk anytime North Korea would like to talk," Tillerson said at the Atlantic Council in Washington on Tuesday, in what seemed to amount to a direct public invitation for North Korea to put aside an escalating cycle of tests and taunts to engage in diplomacy.
"We are ready to have the first meeting without precondition," Tillerson said. "Let's just meet, and we can talk about the weather if you want. Talk about whether it's going to be a square table or a round table, if that's what you are excited about. 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 road map of what we might be willing to work towards."
The remarks are some of the most concrete issued by Tillerson on what talks with North Korea might look like.
"I think Tillerson is saying, we are prepared to talk, we are not putting any conditions," said Ambassador Joseph DeTrani, former US special envoy to North Korea.
"But when we sit at the table, please don't launch missiles, don't have nuclear tests and maybe we can see what you want, you can put your requirements on the table and then you could listen to us," he added.
ent Donald Trump over potential talks with Pyongyang. Earlier this year, Trump tweeted that Tillerson was "wasting his time" negotiating with North Korea.
When asked about Tillerson's Tuesday comments, the White House said, "The President's views on North Korea have not changed."