In a direct reversal with the recently disclosed official White House policy, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the U.S. rejects a ‘freeze for freeze’ approach that would pause joint U.S./South Korean military drills in exchange for a pause to North Korea’s nuclear program.
Speaking in Vancouver at a meeting with foreign ministers, Tillerson said that “we reject a ‘freeze for freeze’ approach, in which legitimate defensive military exercises are placed on the same level as the DPRK’s unlawful actions. The pressure campaign will continue until North Korea takes decisive steps to de-nuclearize.”
Tillerson also said that “we especially urge Russia and China” to enforce NK sanctions” and added that “if all countries cut off or significantly limit their economic and diplomatic engagements with North Korea, the sum total of our individual, national efforts will increase the chances of a negotiated resolution.”
The Secretary of State also warned that North Korea could affect airline travel.
As a reminder, two weeks ago, in what seemed like a diplomatic victory for North Korea, President Trump and South Korean President Moon Jae-in agreed not to hold springtime military exercises during the Olympics, the South Korean president’s office said, a move that was meant to cool tensions with North Korea, even if meant sidelining the US diplomatic pressure on North Korea as it suggested the Kim regime could be gaining the upper hand in negotiations.
As some pundits noted, by agreeing to suspend military exercises to ensure a smooth Olympics, the Trump administration got maneuvered into a freeze for freeze. But now Tillerson rejects that, which is grandstanding, or Tillerson is not even aware of what the White House’s official policy vis-a-vis North Korea is at this moment.
As usual, look to Trump’s twitter feed for some clarification on whether Trump has quietly reversed positions in the past 2 weeks, or whether Tillerson was simply confused.