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White House contradicts Tillerson on North Korea, adding to confusion

White House contradicts Tillerson on North Korea, adding to confusion
From BBC - December 13, 2017

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson appears to have been contradicted by the White House and his own department, after suggesting the US had softened its position on talks with North Korea.

Mr Tillerson said on Tuesday that he was ready to open dialogue with Pyongyang, without preconditions.

But within a day, the White House and State Department had reiterated the administration's hard line, stressing that North Korea must first commit to abandoning its nuclear weapons.

The mixed messages mark the third time in recent months that Mr Tillerson has been publicly at odds with the White House.

Speaking at a policy forum in Washington DC on Tuesday, the secretary of state told the audience: "We have said from the diplomatic side we are ready to talk any time North Korea, would like to talk, and we are ready to have the first meeting without precondition."

He added: "Let's just meet and let's talk about the weather if you want and talk about whether it's going to be a square table or a round table if that's what you are excited about."

In response to the remarks, an unnamed White House official told the Reuters news agency on Wednesday: "The administration is united in insisting that any negotiations with North Korea must wait until the regime fundamentally improves its behavior.

"As the secretary of state himself has said, this must include, but is not limited to, no further nuclear or missile tests."

And Heather Nauert, a spokeswoman for the State Department, tweeted to reiterate the administration position that preconditions apply regarding North Korea's nuclear programme.

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