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Trump says envoy ‘wasting his time’ talking to North Korea

  • U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, left, chats with China's President Xi Jinping during a meeting at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, Saturday, Sept. 30, 2017. (AP Photo/Andy Wong, Pool) Andy Wong



Associated Press
Sunday, October 01, 2017

President Donald Trump said Sunday that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was “wasting his time” trying to negotiate with North Korea over its nuclear and missile programs, raising speculation about whether Trump could be undermining efforts to maintain channels of communication or somehow bolstering the diplomat’s hand in possible future talks.

It was not immediately clear what prompted Trump’s tweets, among a series of weekend posts that ranged from hurricane recovery efforts in Puerto Rico to NFL players’ allegiance to the national anthem, and at whom they were aimed: Tillerson, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, those pushing for continued diplomacy, those favoring a military response to repeated provocations.

Tillerson had acknowledged on Saturday, after meetings in Beijing with Chinese leaders, that the Trump administration was keeping open direct channels of communications with North Korea and probing the North’s willingness to talk.

He provided no elaboration about those channels or the substance of any discussions. After he left China, his spokeswoman issued a statement saying that North Ko rean officials “have shown no indication that they are interested in or are ready for talks regarding denuclearization.”

And then Trump weighed in the next day with tweets that included his usual personal dig at Kim.

“I told Rex Tillerson, our wonderful Secretary of State, that he is wasting his time trying to negotiate with Little Rocket Man ... Save your energy Rex, we’ll do what has to be done!”

Later, after Trump arrived at an international golf competition at a northern New Jersey course, a new tweet appeared: “Being nice to Rocket Man hasn’t worked in 25 years, why would it work now? Clinton failed, Bush failed, and Obama failed. I won’t fail.”

Some commentators seized on Trump’s tweets as evidence that he was either undermining Tillerson personally or his diplomacy, or both. Others said the tweets might represent a “good cop-bad cop approach” to North Korea that may or may not be misguided or bear fruit.

Still others saw Trump’s words as an attempt to give Tillerson diplomatic cover and potentially strengthen his hand in persuading North Korea to come to the table by declaring the effort a “waste of time” that the U.S. could abandon at any time in favor of tightening sanctions even further or a military response.

Sen. Bob Corker, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said the U.S. “absolutely” should step up diplomatic efforts.