Tillerson to North Korea: 'We're ready' to meet 'without precondition'

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Tillerson said he's "quite satisfied" with his progress on diplomacy to curb North Korea's nuclear program and added that he has told Defense Secretary James Mattis that if the secretary of state runs out of diplomatic options, he will have failed.

Speaking at the Atlantic Council Korea Foundation Forum in Washington on Tuesday, Tillerson said it's unrealistic to say the US would only engage in dialogue with Pyongyang on the condition the regime abandons its nuclear development program.

The US has previously demanded that Kim Jong-un's rogue regime demonstrate a willingness to consider giving up their nuclear programme before talks.

But appearing to soften the USA stance to talks, he said: "Let's just meet and let's talk about the weather if you want and talk about whether it's going to be a square table or a round table if that's what you're excited about".

While reiterating Washington's position that it can not accept a nuclear-armed North Korea, Tillerson said the United States was "ready to talk any time they're ready to talk".

In remarks and a Q&A that lasted more than an hour, the top United States diplomat said he was "quite satisfied" with diplomatic progress on pressuring North Korea, that President Donald Trump's strategy to fight ISIS is bearing fruit and that efforts to work with Russian Federation continue where possible, despite its act of "hybrid warfare" in interfering with the 2016 election. Tillerson called on North Korea to show restraint "It's going to be tough to talk if in the middle of our talks you chose to test another device", he said.

Contrasting with that diplomatic foray, the United States held joint military drills with South Korea that Pyongyang characteristically blasted as an act of aggression.

Tillerson said that he would only push for the North Koreans to refrain from testing missiles during the course of the negotiations.

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Tillerson said that the US has assured China that in the event that American troops had to cross northward of the demilitarized zone separating the two Koreas, it would retreat back south once stability returned.

Speaking earlier in the day at the State Department, Tillerson told employees there that the U.S. will maintain the diplomatic campaign "and continue to turn that pressure up until we can get an engagement in a meaningful way with North Korea".

"Then we can begin to lay out a map, a road map, of what we might be willing to work towards". "They've voiced their view of how effective they think those may be, but we do need Russia's support". She says the Trump administration has been sending mixed signals with the president once tweeting that Tillerson is wasting his time.

During a question and answer session with former National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley, Tillerson said he would be willing to sit down to talk with the North Koreans with no preconditions in order to get a process started.

"The actual task at hand, dealing with North Korea, I don't enjoy that", Tillerson said.

A senior administration official told reporters that Tillerson is "optimistic" about the prospect of diplomacy working with Pyongyang, but Tillerson told the crowd that there was a limit to what the United States and its worldwide partners can do with the pressure campaign.

North Korea, for its part, has made clear that it has little interest in negotiations with the United States until it has developed the ability to hit the US mainland with a nuclear-tipped missile, something most experts say it has still not achieved.

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