The Trump administration is willing to bargain directly with North Korea over ending its nuclear weapons program, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Thursday, an apparent shift in policy aimed at strengthening international resolve against what the Trump administration considers a growing menace.
“Obviously, that will be the way we would like to solve this,” Tillerson said in an interview with NPR scheduled to air Friday, when the United States is convening an unusual high-level meeting at the United Nations devoted to the threat posed by North Korea’s nuclear weapons arsenal.
“But North Korea has to decide they’re ready to talk to us about the right agenda, and the right agenda is not simply stopping where they are for a few more months or a few more years and then resuming things. That’s been the agenda for the last 20 years.”
It is not fully clear what that means, but in the NPR interview and another Thursday with Fox News, Tillerson began to sketch a diplomatic approach for the new administration that focuses on international pressure and leveraging China’s economic power over its impoverished ally.
The U.N. Security Council session Friday comes at a particularly tense time in relations between North Korea and the United States, with the Trump administration sending warships to the region in a show of force against Kim Jong Un’s regime.
This week, North Korea conducted large-scale artillery drills, showing off conventional weaponry that can easily reach South Korea’s capital, Seoul, the center of a metropolitan region that is home to about 25 million people.
The Trump administration has said that military action to head off further North Korean nuclear weapons development is not out of the question, but it remains unlikely. A goal of future U.N. diplomacy could be to draw lines for when escalation by North Korea would justify retaliatory action by the United States or others, diplomats and arms control experts said.
At issue is the simultaneous effort in North Korea to perfect a nuclear warhead that could be delivered far from its shores and to develop missiles with a range long enough to be a threat to the United States. Undeterred, North Korea could have that capability within a few years — likely during President Trump’s first term in office. North Korea already possesses missiles able to threaten U.S. allies South Korea and Japan, as well as other Asian neighbors.
“We entered office confronted with a very serious threat from North Korea. We knew that coming in, and the president gave that immediate attention,” Tillerson said in the Fox interview. “Tensions are running a bit high right now. We expected they would. In our approach to addressing this issue, we know there’s going to be risk involved.”
You can read the rest at the Washington Post.