Tillerson on North Korea: 'I will continue our diplomatic efforts until the first bomb drops'

  • Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said he will pursue diplomatic efforts with North Korea up “until the first bomb drops.”
  • Tillerson said the only goal the administration of President Donald Trump has is to “denuclearize the Korean Peninsula.”
  • Tillerson also said the US would sit down with North Korea without preconditions.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson laid out what seemed to be a new approach toward North Korea on Tuesday, pledging to continue diplomatic efforts with the rogue state “until the first bomb drops” and stating that he is open to talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un without preconditions.

“I will continue our diplomatic efforts until the first bomb drops,” Tillerson told the audience at an event at the Atlantic Council.

During a question and answer session with former National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley, Tillerson said he would be willing to sit down to talk with the North Koreans with no preconditions in order to get a process started.

“We’re ready to talk anytime North Korea would like to talk, and we’re ready to have the first meeting without precondition,” Tillerson told Hadley. “Let’s just meet. We can talk about the weather if you want … But can we at least sit down and see each other face to face, and then we can lay out a map, a roadmap, of what we might be willing to work towards.”

Tillerson confirmed that North Korea giving up its nuclear arsenal was crucial to any future deal. But in a pivot from a tenant of President Donald Trump’s policy towards the country, the US’ top diplomat said he would be willing to come to the table without such a promise from the North Koreans.

“It’s not realistic to say we’re only going to talk if you come to the table ready to give up your program, and the president is really realistic about that as well.”

Tillerson said that he would only push for the North Koreans to refrain from testing missiles during the course of the negotiations.

Tillerson went on to elaborate on the Trump administration’s diplomatic goals in the Korean Peninsula.

“We do not seek regime change, we do not seek regime collapse, we do not seek an accelerated unification of the Korean Peninsula, we do not seek a reason to send our forces north of the demilitarized zone,” Tillerson said. “Our only objective is to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula.”

Trump and Kim have been trading barbs and personal insults for months, with Kim even sentencing Trump to death. Trump has also publicly admonished Tillerson for his diplomatic efforts in a tweet written in October.

“I told Rex Tillerson, our wonderful Secretary of State, that he is wasting his time trying to negotiate with Little Rocket Man,” Trump wrote, using a nickname for Kim.

Trump has yet to comment on the diplomatic agenda Tillerson laid out at Tuesday’s event.

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