The White House is preparing for the possibility of North Korea collapsing on its own

Picture: Getty Images
  • Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said at an event on Tuesday that he and the White House have been preparing contingency plans for a potential internal collapse of North Korea.
  • Tillerson said his main concern is North Korean nuclear weapons falling into the hands of non-state actors.
  • Tillerson made his comments during a speech in which he laid out a broad new policy toward North Korea.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson indicated on Tuesday that the White House is preparing contingency plans in case North Korea collapses on its own, making sure the rogue state’s nuclear arsenal is accounted for if Kim Jong Un’s regime falls apart.

“If that unleashed some kind of instability, the most important thing for us to do would be securing those nuclear weapons they have already developed and ensuring that they – that nothing falls into the hands of people who we would not want to have it,” Tillerson said in a wide-ranging speech at an event hosted by the Atlantic Council.

The secretary of state said that he had been engaging with China on how to secure the nuclear weapons if North Korea’s government collapsed.

Tillerson expanded upon this concern, noting that the greatest threat in his eyes with regard to North Korea’s nuclear arsenal is that it might fall into the hands of non-state actors.

“The past behaviour of North Korea, it’s clear to us that they would not just use the possession of nuclear weapons as a deterrent. This would become a commercial activity for them, because we already see elements of it in the commercial marketplace,” Tillerson said.

“In the world we live in today where our greatest threats are non-state actors, we simply cannot accept that,” he said.

Tillerson voiced his and the White House’s concerns about North Korea, while also seeming to outline a new approach to the country. He said the US would be open to talks with the country “without precondition,” as long as the North Koreans refrain from testing missiles during negotiations.

But President Donald Trump did not immediately back up Tillerson’s comments.

“The president’s views on North Korea have not changed,” the White House said in a vague statement, according to Reuters. “North Korea is acting in an unsafe way … North Korea’s actions are not good for anyone and certainly not good for North Korea.”

The president has sparred with Tillerson on numerous occasions, and Trump even 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.

In the past month, Trump administration sources began leaking that Tillerson may be on his way out of the executive branch in favour of a Trump favourite, CIA Director Mike Pompeo.

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