White House says not right time for talks with North Korea hours after Rex Tillerson offered direct dialogue

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ABOVE: Rex Tillerson said on Tuesday the United States was prepared to talk to North Korea whenever it is ready but Pyongyang must come to the negotiating table willing to make choices to change course on its nuclear and missile programs – Dec 13, 2017

The White House said Wednesday that now is not the right time to have talks with North Korea, despite U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson offering to begin direct dialogue with the secretive state less than 24 hours earlier.

A White House official told Reuters that negotiations with North Korea wouldn’t happen until Kim Jong Un’s regime “fundamentally improves its behaviour.”

“Given North Korea’s most recent missile test, clearly right now is not the time [for negotiations],” Reuters quoted White House National Security Council spokesman as saying.
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READ MORE: Rex Tillerson offers talks with North Korea without precondition of North giving up nukes

On Tuesday afternoon, Tillerson offered direct talks with Pyongyang without preconditions of the North giving up its nuclear ambitions.

“Let’s just meet,” Tillerson said in a speech to Washington’s Atlantic Council think tank.

The White House issued a statement following Tillerson’s comments saying U.S. President Donald Trump’s stance hasn’t changed when it comes to negotiations with North Korea.

“The president’s views on North Korea have not changed,” the White House said. “North Korea is acting in an unsafe way … North Korea’s actions are not good for anyone and certainly not good for North Korea.”

Washington has demanded the North to accept that giving up its nuclear arsenal would be part of any negotiations. Although Tillerson said the goal of U.S. policy remained denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, he added it was “not realistic to say we’re only going to talk if you come to the table ready to give up your program.”

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READ MORE: North Korea continues tunnelling work at nuke test site despite aftershocks, watchdog says

“They’ve too much invested in it,” the secretary of state said in his speech. “The president is very realistic about that as well.”

Trump has criticized his secretary of state, saying Tillerson was “wasting his time trying to negotiate with Little Rocket Man.”

Tillerson extended an olive branch for direct talks with North Korea two weeks after Kim’s regime conducted its first missile test after a 70-day lull in activity. On Tuesday, Kim vowed to develop more nuclear weapons while commending his scientists and officials who have helped develop the Hwasong-15 intercontinental ballistic missile, which is said to have the ability to reach the U.S. mainland.

According to a U.S.-based watchdog, the North continues to work at its mountainous nuclear test site, suggesting the country is looking to expand its nuclear operations.

— with files from Reuters