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Tillerson:Prefer Diplomacy With NKorea 10/16 06:23

   Secretary of State Rex Tillerson says diplomatic efforts aimed at resolving 
the North Korean crisis "will continue until the first bomb drops."

   WASHINGTON (AP) -- Secretary of State Rex Tillerson says diplomatic efforts 
aimed at resolving the North Korean crisis "will continue until the first bomb 
drops."

   That statement comes despite President Donald Trump's tweets a couple of 
weeks ago that his chief envoy was "wasting his time" trying to negotiate with 
"Little Rocket Man," a mocking nickname Trump has given the nuclear-armed 
nation's leader, Kim Jong Un.

   "I think he does want to be clear with Kim Jong Un and that regime in North 
Korea that he has military preparations ready to go and he has those military 
options on the table. And we have spent substantial time actually perfecting 
those," Tillerson told CNN's "State of the Union" on Sunday. "But be clear: The 
president has also made clear to me that he wants this solved diplomatically.  
He's not seeking to go to war."

   Recent mixed messaging from the top of the U.S. government has raised 
concerns about the potential for miscalculation amid the increasingly bellicose 
exchange of words by Trump and the North Korean leader.

   Trump told the U.N. General Assembly last month that if the U.S. is "forced 
to defend itself or its allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy 
North Korea." Trump also tweeted that Korea's leadership "won't be around much 
longer" if it continued its provocations, a declaration that led the North's 
foreign minister to assert that Trump had "declared war on our country."

   Tillerson acknowledged during a recent trip to Beijing that the Trump 
administration was keeping open direct channels of communications with North 
Korea and probing the North's willingness to talk. He provided no elaboration 
about those channels or the substance of any discussions.

   Soon after, Trump took to Twitter, saying he had told "our wonderful 
Secretary of State, that he is wasting his time trying to negotiate with Little 
Rocket Man ... Save your energy Rex, we'll do what has to be done!" Trump 
offered no further explanation, but he said all military options are on the 
table for dealing with North Korea's nuclear and missile programs.

   Analysts have speculated about whether the president and his top diplomat 
were playing "good cop, bad cop" with North Korea, and how China might 
interpret the confusing signals from Washington. Beijing is the North's main 
trading partner, and the U.S. is counting on China to enforce U.N. sanctions.

   "Rest assured that the Chinese are not confused in any way what the American 
policy towards North Korea (is) or what our actions and efforts are directed 
at," Tillerson said.

   Asked if Trump's tweets undermined Tillerson, the secretary said: "I think 
what the president is doing is he's trying to motivate action on a number of 
people's part, in particular the regime in North Korea. I think he does want to 
be clear with Kim Jong Un and that regime in North Korea that he has military 
preparations ready to go and he has those military options on the table and we 
have spent substantial time perfecting those."

   He added that Trump "has made it clear to me to continue my diplomatic 
efforts, which we are, and I've told others those diplomatic efforts will 
continue until the first bomb drops."

   North Korea has launched missiles that potentially can strike the U.S. 
mainland and recently conducted its largest ever underground nuclear explosion. 
It has threatened to explode another nuclear bomb above the Pacific.


(KA)

 
 
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