US policy on North Korea hasn't changed, campaign will continue 'till first bomb drops', says Rex Tillerson

Washington: The US State Department said 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 on Wednesday, 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 programme.

File image of Rex Tillerson. AP

File image of Rex Tillerson. AP

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 on Thursday.

"We remain open to dialogue when North Korea is willing to conduct a credible dialogue on the peaceful denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula," she said, adding that "clearly the time is not right now", and 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 that denuclearisation 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 told the Atlantic Council policy forum on Wednesday 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 round table 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".


Updated Date: Dec 14, 2017 10:11 AM

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