USA ready for North Korea talks 'without preconditions'

Korea Foundation U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson delivers a speech at a forum co-hosted by the foundation and the Atlantic Council in Washington on Dec. 12 2017

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Tillerson said he's "quite satisfied" with his progress on diplomacy to curb North Korea's nuclear program and added that he has told Defense Secretary James Mattis that if the secretary of state runs out of diplomatic options, he will have failed.

"We're ready to have the first meeting without preconditions", Tillerson told a meeting on the crisis at the Atlantic Council policy forum in Washington.

"Let's just meet and we can talk about the weather if you want to".

The U.N. political chief said Tuesday that senior North Korea officials told him during a four-day visit to the country last week "that it was important to prevent war" over the country's rapidly advancing nuclear and ballistic missile programs. "We're ready to talk anytime they're ready to talk, but they have to come to the table and they have to come to the table with a view that they're ready to make a different choice". "North Korea's actions are not good for anyone and certainly not good for North Korea", Sarah Sanders, the President's press secretary, said in an email.

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In remarks and a Q&A that lasted more than an hour, the top USA diplomat said he was "quite satisfied" with diplomatic progress on pressuring North Korea, that President Donald Trump's strategy to fight ISIS is bearing fruit and that efforts to work with Russian Federation continue where possible, despite its act of "hybrid warfare" in interfering with the 2016 election.

Before Tillerson's speech, the United States has insisted that negotiations should be based on the DPRK's nuclear disarmament.

During a question and answer session with former National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley, Tillerson said he would be willing to sit down to talk with the North Koreans with no preconditions in order to get a process started.

"So I clearly think they understand that if we are going to talk, we have to have period of quiet. or it's going to be very hard to have productive discussions. We can talk about whether it's going to be a square table or a round table", Tillerson said "Then we can begin to lay out a map, a road map, of what we might be willing to work towards", Tillerson said, suggesting that any initial s would be about setting the ground rules for formal negotiations.

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At least half his address was devoted to walking State Department employees through worldwide events of the year, starting with the challenge of North Korea.

Tillerson's new diplomatic overture comes almost two weeks after North Korea said it had successfully tested an advanced intercontinental ballistic missile that put the entire United States mainland within range of its nuclear weapons. "They have too much invested in it, and [President Trump] is very realistic about that as well". A top United Nations diplomat and former state department official, Jeffrey Feltman, is just back from Pyongyang, and the United Nations says he's calling for open channels to reduce the risks of conflict.

"If they keep going, they can cross a point in which there is nothing left for us in the diplomatic community. where there is nothing else left for us to do", Tillerson said. The top United States diplomat said that in his previous job as Exxon Mobil CEO, "I didn't have to spend a lot of time worrying about children being killed, people's rights, dignity being violated in unimaginable ways".

"That's not the path we want to take", Tillerson said.

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Still, the final goal for the administration has not changed, with the ultimate objective continuing to be the complete and verifiable denuclearization of the Korean peninsula - and Tillerson said he remains optimistic diplomatic efforts can achieve that.

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