Rex Tillerson: Washington has been talking to North Korea
Amid numerous threats and retorts flying back-and-forth, US-North Korea relations show no signs of improvement. Allaying concerns over further escalation, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has acknowledged that Washington is keeping communication channels open with Pyongyang. Tillerson stressed the importance of calming things down and clarified that the US has no plans of ousting Kim Jong-un. Here's more on what he said.
What context is this happening in?
North Korea recently tested an Inter-continental ballistic missile with a purported ability to target the US. Pyongyang soon followed it up an H-bomb test, its most powerful so far. President Trump has responded to the North with an aggressive, war-mongering rhetoric and has threatened to destroy them. Worried that words may soon become actions, their counterparts have appealed for calm from both parties.
Trump's UNGA address and its aftermath
Addressing the UN General Assembly last month, Trump mocked Kim Jong-un, saying: "Rocket man is on a suicide mission." He said that the US would destroy North Korea if it is forced to defend allies. In response, Pyongyang compared Trump's speech to a dog's bark!
What did Tillerson say?
Tillerson confirmed that Washington has lines of communication to Pyongyang. "We can talk to them, we do talk to them," he added. "I think the most immediate action that we need is to calm things down," Tillerson stated. He also clarified that the US would never recognize North Korea as a nuclear-weapon state and that the Trump administration does not plan on ousting Kim.
How do the US and North Korea communicate?
Both countries have traditionally communicated through a diplomatic back-channel connecting the Department of State to Pyongyang's mission at the UN; Trump has restored these since entering the office. These were originally set up to negotiate the release of several Americans imprisoned in North Korea. While discussions on US-North Korea relations were reportedly conducted through these, it doesn't seem to have helped de-escalate the crisis.