Trump says ‘talking is not the answer’ with North Korea

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump said Wednesday that “talking is not the answer” to North Korea, after it upped the stakes in its standoff with Washington by calling for more weapons launches in the Pacific.

Trump’s morning tweet followed a highly provocative North Korean missile test Tuesday that flew over Japan, a close American ally.

But his comment contradicted statements from his Cabinet officials and was likely to deepen confusion over his administration’s policy on the nuclear threat from Pyongyang. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis on Wednesday told reporters, “We’re never out of diplomatic solutions,” and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had hinted at possible direct talks with North Korea.

Trump’s tweet returned to a familiar theme: the failings of past U.S. administrations to halt North Korea’s weapons development over the past quarter-century. The North last month tested for the first time a long-range missile, putting it closer to its goal of posing a direct nuclear threat to the U.S. mainland.

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“The U.S. has been talking to North Korea, and paying them extortion money, for 25 years. Talking is not the answer!” Trump said.

Trump’s tweet did not spell out what he meant by “extortion.” The White House did not immediately respond to questions.

North Korea has in the past temporarily halted nuclear development when the U.S. and others provided food aid or other types of compensation. According to the Congressional Research Service, between 1995 and 2008, the United States provided North Korea with more than $1.3 billion in assistance: slightly more than 50 percent for food aid and about 40 percent for energy assistance. But since early 2009, the U.S. has provided virtually no aid to North Korea. The last formal talks between the two sides on the North’s nuclear program were in 2012.

The North hasn’t made demands for aid, at least publicly, since Trump came into office. Instead, it has focused on finishing its decades-long effort to master the technology for fitting a nuclear warhead on a missile that can strike the U.S., which it views as essential for its national defense.

Trump’s assessment about the need for dialogue also appears at odds with his top diplomat, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who had in recent weeks been softening the conditions for a possible, formal dialogue with Pyongyang. The U.S….

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