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NKorea unlikely to agree to talks on ditching nukes: Tillerson

NKorea unlikely to agree to talks on ditching nukes: Tillerson

"We are ready to talk any time North Korea would like to talk".

Tillerson said on Tuesday the United States was "ready to talk any time North Korea would like to talk", appearing to back away from a key U.S. demand that Pyongyang must first accept that any negotiations would have to be about giving up its nuclear arsenal. "They clearly understand that if we're going to talk, we have to have a period of quiet", he said, echoing a statement back in August that the best signal that Pyongyang is ready for talks would be for it to stop launching missiles.

"Let's just meet", he said, calling for face-to-face negotiations so that the USA and North Korea "can begin to lay out a roadmap of what we might be willing to work towards". "We can talk about whether it's a square table or a round table if that's what you are excited about".

"Then we can begin to lay out a map, a road map, of what we might be willing to work towards".

During a trip to Beijing, Tillerson revealed that the US had back channels to North Korea and was probing for opportunities to engage the North in dialogue.

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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. "They have too much invested in it, and the President is very realistic about that as well".

Tillerson's remarks Tuesday came two weeks after North Korea conducted a test with a missile that could potentially carry a nuclear warhead to the U.S. Eastern Seaboard.

"The President's views on North Korea have not changed". Trump, however, tweeted in October that Tillerson was "wasting his time" trying to negotiate with North Korea.

But elsewhere in his remarks, Tillerson insisted the US-led pressure campaign of economic and diplomatic sanctions would continue until "the first bomb drops". "But I'm also confident that Secretary Mattis will be successful if it ends up being his turn", Tillerson said, referring to Secretary of Defense James Mattis.

The UK Guardian notes that Tillerson's comments could be interpreted as a final effort to get the North Koreans talking before doom comes to Pyongyang. The spokesman was referring to North Korea's recent test of the new Hwasong-15 intercontinental ballistic missile, which can theoretically strike anywhere in the continental U.S. Russian Federation and China have the relatively closest diplomatic relations with the insular state of North Korea.

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