U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson disclosed it has 2 to 3 channels of communication open with North Korea and the government has been actively pursuing a dialogue with the regime regarding denuclearization.
Tillerson made the disclosure during his trip to China. It marked the first time he has spoken about the U.S. government’s backdoor efforts to use diplomacy to ease tensions with North Korea.
The goal of the initial dialogue would be to find out directly from North Korea what it wanted to discuss. The United Nations recently imposed a new round of economic sanctions for the regime’s recent tests on a reported hydrogen bomb and the launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile which flew over Japan.
Pyongyang’s closest ally China also began to severe its long-held relations by cutting its supply of oil, suspending a trade agreement on textiles and closing down North Korean- owned businesses including joint venture programs in the territory.
Tillerson believes China which accounts for 90% of North Korea’s foreign trade is more willing to cut ties with the regime because it realizes supreme leader Kim Jong Un’s nuclear weapons and ICBM development programs have significantly advanced.
Despite the new UN economic sanctions and the recent moves of China, it does not seem that Pyongyang is prepared to engage with the United States in any discussions on denuclearization.
According to U.S. Secretary of State spokesperson Heather Nauert, “North Korean officials have shown no indication that they are interested in or are ready for talks regarding denuclearization.”
In response, the spokesman for the North Korean mission to the United States stated, “We cannot go further into detail.”
Senator Bob Corker is of the opinion that Tillerson’s pursuit of a dialogue is a wasted exercise in diplomacy:
“Tillerson is working against the unified view of our intelligence agencies which say there’s no amount of pressure that can be put on them to stop.”
Sen. Corker added that the development of nuclear-tipped ICBM missiles was Kim’s “ticket to survival.”
Tillerson agreed with Sen. Corker’s assessment but remains confident dialogue can be successful in averting military confrontation. The key is to drive home the message that the U.S. has no intentions of removing Kim but only seeks to get North Korea to stop its nuclear weapons program.
“Look, our objective is denuclearization. Our objective is not to get rid of you. Our objective is not to collapse your regime.”
Given the history of Kim Jong Un’s resistance to diplomacy and the strained relations of Pyongyang with the White House, it would seem Tillerson’s goal of a peaceful resolution may remain a pipe dream.