Trump Contradicts Chief Diplomat on North Korea

Unlike Rex Tillerson, the president is not prepared to hold talks without preconditions.

American secretary of state Rex Tillerson listens as President Donald Trump talks with his Vietnamese counterpart, Phạm Bình Minh, at a state banquet in Hanoi, November 11
American secretary of state Rex Tillerson listens as President Donald Trump talks with his Vietnamese counterpart, Phạm Bình Minh, at a state banquet in Hanoi, November 11 (State Department)

American president Donald Trump has publicly undermined his secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, for the nth time.

On Tuesday, Tillerson announced a new North Korea policy when he said the United States were prepared to start talks without preconditions.

“Let’s just meet and let’s — we can talk about the weather if you want,” he said.

The White House immediately put out a statement that contradicted him: “The president’s views on North Korea have not changed.”

The administration has said it won’t speak with North Korea unless the regime is willing to discuss curbing its nuclear program.

A spokeswoman for Tillerson’s own State Department even tweeted:

We remain open to dialogue when North Korea is willing to conduct a serious and credible dialogue on the peaceful denuclearization, but that time is not now.

Needless to say, this sort of ambiguity at the highest levels of government will do little to defuse the crisis.

Not the first time

Vox points out this is not the first time Trump has undermined his chief diplomat.

  • In October, the president said Tillerson was “wasting his time” trying to kickstart diplomacy with North Korea.
  • In September, Tillerson was caught unaware that Trump has made up his mind about tearing up the Iran nuclear deal. (Although he later balked at that.)
  • In June, Trump undermined Tillerson’s efforts to repair alliances in the Arab world by calling Qatar a state sponsor of terrorism.