The Trump administration acknowledged on Saturday for the first time that it was in direct communication with the government of North Korea over its missile and nuclear tests, seeking a possible way forward beyond the escalating threats of a military confrontation from both sides.
The two countries have been trading public threats over North Korea’s nuclear program, with the North declaring that its missiles have the capacity to strike the United States and President Trump vowing to “totally destroy” North Korea.
Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson said:
We are probing, so stay tuned, We have a couple,We ask, Would you like to talk? We have lines of communications to Pyongyang — we’re not in a dark situation, a blackout three channels open to Pyongyang,
So far, the North Koreans have shown no interest in a serious negotiation. For his part, Mr. Tillerson gave no indication of what the administration might be willing to give up if talks began, and Mr. Trump has made clear he would make no concessions.
But many inside and outside government have noted there were no major military exercises between the United States and South Korea scheduled until the spring, so the promise of scaling them back could be dangled.
On September 19, in his first address to the United Nations General Assembly, Trump had called North Korean leader Kim Jong-un a “rocket man” on a “suicide mission,” prompting Kim to warn the US president that he would “pay dearly” for his comments.
Tillerson said the focus was on reducing the threats being exchanged in recent weeks between Kim and Trump, The New York Times report said. During his visit to China, Tillerson met President Xi Jinping and other officials and pushed them to implement sanctions on North Korea.
During the 2016 presidential campaign, Mr. Trump said that, if elected, he would sit down and negotiate directly with Mr. Kim, perhaps over a hamburger. He seemed confident that his deal-making skills could extend to nuclear disarmament, but at times talked about getting other powers — chiefly China and Iran — to deal with North Korea for him, because they would have more leverage.
North Korea tensions
Tensions over the Korean peninsula has escalated as the North has stepped up the development of weapons, testing a string of missiles this year. North Korean state media had on September 3 claimed that they had successfully conducted a hydrogen bomb test. This was the country’s sixth underground nuclear test since 2006.