Tillerson says U.S. won't set preconditions for North Korea talks

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson answers questions during the daily briefing at the White House in Washington DC

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson addresses a joint news conference with European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini at the European Council in Brussels, Belgium, December 5, 2017.

"We're ready to talk anytime North Korea would like to talk, and we're ready to have the first meeting without precondition", Tillerson told Hadley. "We want you to make a different approach".

The message that North Korea is now receiving, he said, is that, "we do not accept your nuclear weapons program".

Tillerson also disclosed that the United States had been talking to China about how to secure North Korea's nuclear weapons in the event of a collapse of the government in Pyongyang, and that Beijing had been given assurances that if U.S. forces had to cross into North Korea, they would pull back across the border into South Korea.

While Donald Trump and his leading officials have consistently held out the possibility of a military confrontation, Mr Tillerson said last month in response to North Korea's latest test that "diplomatic options remain viable and open, for now", floating the possibility of additional financial sanctions. "We can talk about whether it's a square table or a round table if that's what you are excited about", Tillerson said.

With both the United States and North Korea pushing for dialogue, watchers say the two sides might finally have an opportunity to quell tensions through diplomatic channels.

Tillerson also said the United States was working to tighten enforcement of worldwide sanctions against North Korea, especially further measures that China can apply, and that Washington had a full menu of military options if such a response was needed. We are ready to talk any time they are ready to talk.

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The US has previously demanded that Kim Jong-un's rogue regime demonstrate a willingness to consider giving up their nuclear programme before talks. "A honest indication would be the immediate cessation of its provocative threats, nuclear tests, missile launches and other weapons tests", US Defense Secretary James Mattis and Tillerson said in a co-written opinion piece published in the Wall Street Journal in August.

Although Tillerson said the goal of USA 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".

"He made clear that initial meeting (s) can begin without preconditions and without North Korea committing to denuclearization".

South Korea continued with its military exercises with the United States to check military readiness, exercises that the North describes a preparation for war. "They have too much invested in it".

Tillerson went on to elaborate on the Trump administration's diplomatic goals in the Korean Peninsula.

"The most important thing to us would be securing those nuclear weapons that they have already developed and ensuring that nothing falls into the hands of people who we would not want to have it".

"We have a strong military presence standing behind us", Tillerson said of his diplomatic efforts. "They did not offer any type of commitment to us at that point".

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