On Tuesday, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson extended an olive branch — or at least, an olive twig — to North Korea, saying the U.S. was willing to have talks with Pyongyang without preconditions.
Predictably, Tillerson’s optimism was undercut just a day later by the White House, in keeping with a year-long pattern of President Trump disregarding statements made by his secretary of state.
“Given North Korea’s most recent missile test, clearly right now is not the time [for negotiations],” a White House spokesman said to Reuters on Wednesday. Last month, Trump told South Korea’s parliament that he would not negotiate with Kim Jong Un unless North Korean leaders “cease their threats and dismantle their nuclear program.”
While Tillerson did say that the U.S. needed “a period of quiet” before coming to the negotiating table, on Tuesday he invited North Korea to “talk anytime” — breaking with longstanding U.S. policy by opening the diplomacy door even if North Korea does not give up its nuclear weapons program.
North Korea’s most recent missile test on Nov. 30 showed that it now possesses missiles that are likely capable of hitting the continental United States. Throughout Tillerson’s bizarre tenure as secretary of state, Trump has frequently struck a more aggressive tone on North Korea than his top diplomat.