Asia Minute: Tillerson: Diplomatic Channels are Open with North Korea

Oct 2, 2017

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The United States and North Korea are now in touch about possible diplomatic moves to resolve tensions on the Korean peninsula. That word came over the weekend from Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who is traveling in the region. HPR’s Bill Dorman has more in today’s Asia Minute.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson says the United States and North Korea are in direct communication—adding “we have a couple, three channels open to Pyongyang.”

He made the comment Saturday after three days of talks in Beijing mostly focused on arrangements for a brief visit next month by President Trump.

The Secretary did not share any further details about existing or potential communications with North Korea.

In the past, the North Korean mission to the United Nations has been used as one channel for direct communications—other arrangements have been made involving facilities of third countries.

There’s another challenge to these efforts—a lack of experienced professional staff on the U.S. side.

The ranking Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee said Friday diplomatic efforts with North Korea are “being hollowed out because of a lack of capacity.”

Senator Jack Reed pointed out that President Trump still has not named an ambassador to South Korea…while the State Department’s top regional official for East Asia is serving only in an “acting” role.

The Washington Post reports North Korean officials have been so confused by mixed signals coming from the Trump Administration that they have reached out to former U.S. government officials with experience in the region seeking clarification.