As the news of a terror attack in Barcelona reached the U.S. Department of State on Thursday ahead of a press conference with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Secretary of Defense James Mattis and their Japanese counterparts, a reporter from CNN, who got the first question following official statements, asked about White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon’s interview with the Left-wing magazine The American Prospect.
The Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the van attack in the Spanish city where at least 13 have died.
‘In recent days, the White House Strategist Steve Bannon called the diplomatic and economic ratcheting up of tensions with North Korea a quote unquote ‘side show,’” the reporter said. “He said that there is no military solution and that the real issue is an economic war with China.”
“Does this reflect some kind of new opinion by the administration or was he speaking for himself?”
“And are you afraid that comments like this might dilute the credible military deterrence that is backing your diplomatic and economic efforts?” the reporter asked.
“I don’t really have a comment on what Mr. Bannon’s remarks were,” Tillerson said, noting that he had seen the interview.
Tillerson went on to say that President Donald Trump “endorsed” the strategy in place for dealing with North Korea — economic pressure with military “consequences” if the North Korean Communist regime acts on its threats to launch ballistic missiles at the island of Guam, the United States, or any of our allies.
Tillerson said that the strategy included studying what has been used to deal with North Korea “over the past two decades.”
“What’s different about this campaign is I think the level of international unity around this campaign,” Tillerson said. “The level of cooperation we are getting from China and from others in the region and the intensity with which we are carrying out the campaign.”
“Obviously, any diplomatic effort in any situation, where you have this level of threat that we are confronted with — a threat with proportions that none of us like to contemplate — has to be backed with strong military consequences if North Korea chooses wrongly.”
Tillerson also said diplomatic talks could still be on the table, but that development depends on North Korea’s Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un and his communist regime. Tillerson said:
Our effort is to cause them to want to engage in talks, but engage in talks with an understanding that these talks will lead to a different conclusion than talks of the past. And so we will continue that effort diplomatically first and foremost, but knowing that North Korea sits with a significant capability already within their grasp, I think it is only prudent that they fully understand the consequences should they make a bad choice for themselves and, obviously, there are consequences for others as well.
A State Department staffer said that reporters decide among themselves which two reporters get to ask a question at this kind of press availability with U.S. and foreign officials. CNN and Reuters were apparently chosen by reporters who routinely report at the State Department.
At the start of the press conference Tillerson said the United States offers “condolences to the loss of life and the injuries that have occurred to so many innocent people yet again.”
“Terrorists around the world should know the United States and our allies are resolved to find you and bring you to justice,” Tillerson said.
“’The perpetrators of the Barcelona attack are soldiers of the Islamic State and carried out the operation in response to calls for targeting coalition states,’ the agency said, referring to a United States-led coalition against the Sunni militant group.”