Beijing (GPA) – While visiting Beijing this weekend, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson let reporters know that the US is now attempting to negotiate with North Korea.
Mr. Tillerson spoke to reporters this weekend from the US ambassador’s residence in Beijing and confirmed for the first time that the US has several communications channels open to Pyongyang. According to Tillerson, the US has three means of communication with top officials in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), all working toward opening negotiations between the two countries.
This announcement, of course, follows several tense weeks of escalating rhetoric coming from US President Donald Trump, as well as in responses issued by Kim Jong Un. The height of the rhetoric was reached during the United Nations General Assembly’s (UNGA) annual meeting, which Trump used as an opportunity to threaten several nations, including the DPRK, ending by calling out Kim while only referring to him as “Rocket Man.”
Following Trump’s UNGA address, Kim issued a video rebuttal directed at Trump, warning of the foolishness of the idea of starting another conflict on the Korean Peninsula. This pattern continued for the days leading up to Tillerson’s announcement, which comes as he ends an important trip to China as the country’s Party Conference approaches.
While this announcement is some good news, there is still the usual catch involved in all conditions set by the US for negotiations with the DPRK. Washington’s favored outcome for any negotiations with the DPRK remains the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.
Following Tillerson’s remarks, this position was clarified by U.S. Department of State spokesperson Heather Nauert, who issued a statement saying that despite communications with the DPRK through “several open channels,” and Pyongyang has “shown no indication that they are interested in or are ready for talks regarding denuclearization.” Yet there was good news, which was that the official State Department line apparently includes “assurances that the United States is not interested in promoting the collapse of the current regime, pursuing regime change, accelerating reunification of the peninsula or mobilizing forces north of the DMZ.”
Another problem has also presented itself following Tillerson’s remarks. Much like any time Tillerson publicly states a positive US foreign policy position (think “Assad can stay”), these positions are almost always immediately contradicted by the same person every time: President Trump.
Shortly after Tillerson’s statements went out in in the Sunday morning media blitz, Donald Trump again took to Twitter to undermine US efforts at diplomacy. In a series of tweets on early Sunday, Trump addressed his Secretary of by tweeting “I told Rex Tillerson, our wonderful Secretary of State, that he is wasting his time trying to negotiate with Little Rocket Man. Save your energy Rex, we’ll do what has to be done!”
…Save your energy Rex, we'll do what has to be done!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 1, 2017
Several hours later, it was clear that this topic was still bothering trump who came back online four hours after his original tweets that “Being nice to Rocket Man hasn’t worked in 25 years, why would it work now? Clinton failed, Bush failed, and Obama failed. I won’t fail.”
Following this series of tweets, Trump’s undermining was further undermined by another senior administration official who told CNN that “We are still committed to a diplomatic approach.” Trump seems to be the only one who’s not on the same page as the rest of his administration, with even Secretary of Defense James Mattis encouraging diplomacy and admitting publicly that a Korean war would be “catastrophic.”
The diplomatic approach is encouraged by everyone but Trump, even the normally bloodthirsty intelligence community such as former CIA Chief Michael Morell who has pushed against the US demand for denuclearization, saying the best option is “acceptance of where [the DPRK] are and where they’re going with containment and deterrence. I think the latter makes the most sense. I think that’s where we’ll end up.” While the current US regime is obviously opposed to this option, at least most of the government is willing to talk to Pyongyang on some level, and maybe it’s time the president follow suit.