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US State Department clarifies ‘no change in policy on North Korea’ after Tillerson’s comments

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said talks with North Korea could begin ‘without preconditions’, including without confirmation that Kim Jong- Un’s regime will abandon its nuclear program.

world Updated: Dec 14, 2017 08:52 IST
Press Trust of India, Washington
Donald Trump,Trump,US administration
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson speaks at the 2017 Atlantic Council-Korea Foundation Forum in Washington on Tuesday.(AP Photo)

The US State Department said Wednesday its policy on North Korea “has not changed,” following remarks by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson that Washington is ready to talk without prior conditions.

Tillerson’s comments, made Tuesday, were interpreted by some experts as a softening of the US position.

The Secretary of State stated the need for a “period of calm” in Pyongyang’s nuclear and ballistic tests before negotiations could begin.

However, he also said talks could begin “without preconditions,” including without confirmation that Kim Jong- Un’s regime will abandon its nuclear program.

Tillerson had said in August that “a condition of those talks is there is no future where North Korea holds nuclear weapons.”

“The secretary was not creating a new policy, our policy remains exactly the same as it was,” State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said Wednesday.

“We remain open to dialogue when North Korea is willing to conduct a credible dialogue on the peaceful denuclearization of the Korean peninsula,” she said, adding “clearly the time is not right now” and that the State Department is “on the same page” as the White House on the issue.

Donald Trump’s national security advisor, HR McMaster, also said denuclearization is “the only viable objective in North Korea.”

“Talks with North Korea won’t be an end in themselves,” he added during a conference organised by the Jamestown Foundation research institute in Washington.

Meanwhile, he interpreted Tillerson’s offer of discussions “without preconditions” as meaning that the US is “not going to relieve any pressure on North Korea, or cave in to any demands for pay offs.”

Tillerson yesterday told the Atlantic Council policy forum that North Korea is welcome to talk about anything at a first meeting — even the weather.

“Let’s just meet and let’s talk about the weather if you want and talk about whether it’s going to be a square table or a roundtable if that’s what you’re excited about,” he said.

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

First Published: Dec 14, 2017 08:52 IST