US in di­rect con­tact with N. Korea

Tiller­son won’t say if regime has re­sponded to over­tures for di­a­log

The Commercial Appeal - - Front Page -

USA TO­DAY

For the first time, the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion ac­knowl­edged Satur­day that it is in “di­rect con­tact” with the North Korean gov­ern­ment and has asked Pyongyang whether they would like to dis­cuss their mis­sile and nu­clear tests.

“We are prob­ing, so stay tuned,” Sec­re­tary of State Rex Tiller­son told re­porters in Bei­jing when asked how the U.S. might start a di­a­log with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

“We ask, ‘Would you like to talk?’ We have lines of com­mu­ni­ca­tions to Pyongyang — we’re not in a dark sit­u­a­tion, a black­out. We have a cou­ple, three chan­nels open to Pyongyang,” he said.

The sec­re­tary spoke to re­porters at the res­i­dence of the U.S. am­bas­sador to Bei­jing after meet­ing with Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping and other top Chi­nese lead­ers.

Ac­cord­ing to an As­so­ci­ated Press re­port in Au­gust, the U.S. and North Korea had been en­gaged in quiet dis­cus­sions for months with reg­u­lar diplo­matic con­tact be­tween the U.S. en­voy for North Korea pol­icy and a se­nior North Korean diplo­mat at the country’s U.N. mis­sion.

The public ac­knowl­edg­ment of con­tact with Pyongyang fol­lows in­creas­ingly sharp ver­bal ex­changes and in­sults be­tween the two coun­tries in re­cent weeks over North Korea’s lat­est nu­clear and mis­sile threats.

The ex­changes have in­cluded threats by North Korea to test a hy­dro­gen bomb in the Pa­cific and to shoot down U.S. mil­i­tary air­craft off its coast. The U.S. has threat­ened a swift re­sponse.

Pres­i­dent Donald Trump re­ferred to Kim Jong Un as “lit­tle rocket man” and tweeted last week that the North “won’t be around much longer” if it keeps is­su­ing threats.

Tiller­son would not say if the North Kore­ans had re­sponded to the U.S. over­ture for talks.

“We can talk to them,” he said. “We do talk to them.” Asked if the lines of com­mu­ni­ca­tion run through China, he said, “di­rectly,” adding, “we have our own chan­nels.”

The sec­re­tary said it was important to lower the tem­per­a­ture after weeks of threats and counter-threats with Pyongyang.

“The whole sit­u­a­tion is a bit over­heated right now,” he said. “Ob­vi­ously it would help if North Korea would stop fir­ing its missiles, that would calm things down a lot.”

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