Updated Dec 15, 2017 1:02 PM EST
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Friday at a United Nations meeting on North Korea said the regime must “earn its way back to the table,” seemingly contradicting comments he made earlier this week when he said the U.S. is ready for talks with North KoreaBut the top U.S. diplomat on Friday insisted that earlier this week he also called for North Korea to end its aggressive stance before talks can begin.
“We have been clear that all options remain on the table in the defense of our nation,” Tillerson said at the Friday meeting. “But we do not seek, nor do we want, war with North Korea. The United States will use all necessary measures to defend itself against North Korean aggression, but our hope remains that diplomacy will produce a resolution.”
“As I said earlier this week, a sustained cessation of North Korea’s threatening behavior must occur before talks can begin,” Tillerson continued. “North Korea must earn its way back to the table. The pressure campaign must and will continue, until denuclearization is achieved. We will in the meantime keep our channels of communication open.”
But Tillerson on Tuesday at the Atlantic Council in Washington, D.C., indicated talks could begin anytime, “without preconditions.”
“When do the talks begin? We have said, from the diplomatic side, we are ready to talk any time North Korea would like to talk. And we are ready to have the first meeting without preconditions. Let’s just meet,” Tillerson said.
Tillerson added Tuesday, “We can talk about the weather if you want. We can talk whether it is going to be a square table or a round table if that is what you are excited about.”
Those comments caused a stir, given that they departed from the general U.S. stance on talks with the North Korean regime.
also insisted the “reporting” of Tillerson’s earlier comments this week was inaccurate, even though the comments came directly from the secretary of state.
McMaster on Wednesday framed the proposal for possible talks as part of a process, not an end in and of itself.
“I know there’s some reporting yesterday about Secretary Tillerson said we’re open to initiating negotiations, but those negotiations are not—or talks, you know—would be, are not an end in and of themselves, and there would be no preconditions to those—when he said there will be no preconditions, what…