WASHINGTON, D.C.: US President Donald Trump warned on Sunday that negotiating with North Korea over its nuclear program would be a waste of time, after it emerged that Washington has channels of contact with Pyongyang.
Only hours after Secretary of State Rex Tillerson revealed that US officials are in exploratory contact with their North Korean counterparts, Trump appeared to undercut his top diplomat by declaring on Twitter that any talks would be futile.
“I told Rex Tillerson, our wonderful Secretary of State, that he is wasting his time trying to negotiate with Little Rocket Man,” Trump said, using the insulting nickname he has tried to pin on North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un.
“Save your energy Rex, we’ll do what has to be done!”
Speaking on Saturday after talks with China’s President Xi Jinping in Beijing, Tillerson said that US officials have open channels of communication with North Korea despite an escalating war of words between their respective leaders.
Asked how he could know whether the North would even contemplate coming to the table to negotiate away its growing nuclear arsenal, Tillerson told reporters in Beijing: “We are probing, so stay tuned.”
“We have lines of communication with Pyongyang. We’re not in a dark situation, a blackout, we have a couple, three channels open to Pyongyang,” he said. “We can talk to them, we do talk to them.”
But later, after the secretary began his flight home, the State Department issued a statement to clarify that North Korea has “shown no indication that they are interested in or are ready for talks regarding denuclearization.”
And on Sunday, the department’s spokeswoman Heather Nauert and Tillerson’s chief public affairs adviser R.C. Hammond launched their own series of tweets in what appeared to be an attempt to harmonize the mixed messages.
“DPRK will not obtain a nuclear capability. Whether through diplomacy or force is up to the regime,” Nauert wrote, before tagging the president in her second message: “Diplomatic channels are open for #KimJongUn for now. They won’t be open forever @StateDept @potus.”
Hammond, meanwhile, said Trump’s tweets should be interpreted not as a rebuke to Tillerson but as a message to Kim that time is running out for a diplomatic solution.
“Channels have been open for months. They’ve been unused and cooling for months,” he said in one tweet.