Secretary of State Rex Tillerson withdrew his offer to meet with North Korea without preconditions at a United Nations Security Council Friday.
“North Korea must earn its way back to the table,” Tillerson said, adding, “We will in the meantime keep our channels of communication open.” The secretary of state has completely changed course from his previous comments.
Speaking at the Atlantic Council-Korea Foundation Forum Tuesday, Tillerson said that the U.S. was prepared to hold talks with Pyongyang without preconditions.
“We’re ready to talk anytime North Korea would like to talk, and we’re ready to have the first meeting without precondition,” he said. “It’s not realistic to say we’re only going to talk if you come to the table ready to give up your program. They have too much invested in it.”
Almost immediately afterwards, the White House shot down Tillerson’s assertion that the U.S. is ready to meet with North Korea, not only without preconditions, but at all.
“The president’s views on North Korea have not changed,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Tuesday.
“Given North Korea’s most recent missile test, clearly right now is not the time,” a White House National Security Council spokesman added Wednesday.
The shifts in rhetoric risks complicating a tense situation by sending mixed messages to Pyongyang, which deeply distrusts Washington. Tillerson has denied any disconnect. There is “no daylight at all between the president’s policy and the pursuit of that policy,” he told reporters are the UN gathering.
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