Defense

Tillerson: Diplomacy ‘Will Continue’ With North Korea ‘Until The First Bomb Drops’

REUTERS/Yuri Gripas

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Ryan Pickrell China/Asia Pacific Reporter
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Secretary of State Rex Tillerson stressed Sunday morning that the Trump administration remains committed to the pursuit of a diplomatic solution in North Korea.

“It was made clear to me that [President Donald Trump] wants this solved diplomatically,” Tillerson said on CNN. “He is not seeking to go to war.” He explained that the president has ordered him to continue his diplomatic efforts, pointing out that diplomacy “will continue until the first bomb drops.”

It is unclear which country would be dropping bombs in the aforementioned scenario.

There has been significant confusion about the administration’s intentions with regard to North Korea. During his recent trip to China, the secretary of state revealed that the U.S. has back channels for communication with North Korea and is probing for opportunities for negotiation.

Trump then tweeted that Tillerson was wasting his time, noting in that tweet and several subsequent posts that talking to Rocket Man is not the answer. If negotiations are not on the table, then it would suggest that the Trump administration’s massive pressure campaign is leading to regime change or war.

Many observers suggested that the president had “castrated” the secretary of state, making his job much harder. Tillerson denied that he had been gelded in his interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper.

“I checked,” he said, “I’m fully intact.”

Multiple media reports, including several from NBC, have painted a picture of a cabinet in chaos, one in which a madman president demands tens of thousands of nuclear weapons, triggering shock and surprise among senior officials and prompting Tillerson to insult Trump’s intelligence. Trump, Tillerson, and Secretary of Defense James Mattis have all publicly denied these reports, sharply criticizing NBC and a few other outlets for their questionable reporting.

The administration’s strategy on North Korea remains murky, but past and current rhetoric suggests that diplomatic efforts include pressuring other countries, China in particular, to isolate North Korea and strangle its economy. This pressure campaign has so far pushed over 20 countries to break ties with the rogue regime and encouraged China to take unprecedented steps to rein in its nuclear neighbor, which is becoming a liability rather than a strategic asset for Beijing.

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