Trump tells Rex Tillerson he’s ‘wasting his time on North Korea

trumpUS President Donald Trump says he has told Secretary of State Rex Tillerson not to waste his time trying to negotiate with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

This was the first time the Trump administration had acknowledged it was in direct communication with Pyongyang.

The disclosure came as Mr Tillerson — the Trump administration’s top diplomat — expressed hope for reducing tensions with North Korea, which is fast advancing toward its goal of developing a nuclear-tipped missile capable of hitting the US mainland.

Mr Tillerson said during a trip to China on Saturday that the United States was probing North Korea to see whether it is interested in dialogue and that it had multiple direct channels of communication with Pyongyang.

“We are probing, so stay tuned,” Mr Tillerson told a small group of reporters.

“At a time when North Korea is continuing its provocations, the president does not think now is the time to negotiate with them,” the official said.

The official also said that to the extent that diplomatic channels exist between Washington and Pyongyang, they are aimed at securing the return of Americans detained by North Korea.

Some commentators seized on Mr Trump’s tweets as evidence that he was either undermining Mr Tillerson personally or his diplomacy, or both.

Others said the tweets might represent a “good cop-bad cop approach” to North Korea that may or may not be misguided or bear fruit.

Still others saw Mr Trump’s words as an attempt to give Mr Tillerson diplomatic cover and potentially strengthen his hand in persuading North Korea to come to the table by declaring the effort a “waste of time” that the US could abandon at any time in favour of tightening sanctions even further or a military response.

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