Tillerson's rift with Trump on North Korea resurfaces

US 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

US 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

"We're ready to talk anytime North Korea would like to talk and we're ready to have the first meeting without preconditions", Tillerson said Tuesday.

But Mr Tillerson, speaking in Washington, said: "We're ready to have the first meeting without preconditions".

"It's not realistic to say that we're only going to talk if you come to the table ready to give up your program", Tillerson explained.

"We can talk about the weather if you want", he said on December 12.

Meanwhile, he interpreted Tillerson's offer of discussions "without preconditions" as meaning that the U.S. is "not going to relieve any pressure on North Korea, or cave in to any demands for pay offs".

China and Russian Federation responded positively to Tillerson's remarks, even after the White House appeared to put his proposal in question by saying that US President Donald Trump's "views on North Korea have not changed". The Trump administration has held a series of high-level dialogues with Beijing this year, and US and Chinese generals held rare talks in late November about how the two militaries might communicate in a crisis although USA officials said the dialogue wasn't centered on North Korea.

Tillerson had acknowledged that it would be unrealistic for Pyongyang to give up its nuclear weapons program before talks could begin, as the nation's threat of war is one of its few bargaining chips. "McMaster has the ear of the President and is much more credible".

The Trump administration wants to economically and diplomatically isolate North Korea under its "maximum pressure" campaign, in hopes of bringing the rogue state to the negotiating table to discuss its denuclearization.

Rex Tillerson

Before Tillerson's comments, Pyongyang had hinted at the possibility of engaging in dialogue with the United States.

Tillerson stressed that the USA would not accept a nuclear-armed North Korea, as it flouts worldwide norms and might spread weapons technology to non-state groups in ways that other nuclear powers have not.

"The President's views on North Korea have not changed", White House spokesperson Sarah Sanders said.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un speaks during the Second Plenum of the 7th Central Committee of the Workers' Party of Korea (WPK) at the Kumsusan Palace of the Sun, in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang October 8, 2017. The new missile, according to Pyongyang, is capable of delivering a nuclear weapon to all parts of the U.S. mainland. "We are not seeing any evidence that they are ready to sit down and have those kinds of conversations right now". The test drew condemnation from the USA and Pyongyang's only major ally, China.

But among experts who've studied the situation closely the consensus appears to be that asking North Korea to end its nuclear weapons program is a non-starter.

"That is our commitment we made to them".

Russia's Foreign Ministry called on North Korea and the United States on Wednesday to refrain from taking any steps that could further exacerbate the tensions, according to comments carried by state media.

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