Rex Tillerson on North Korea: ‘Diplomatic Efforts Will Continue Until the First Bomb Drops’

The Associated Press
The Associated Press

Appearing on CNN’s State of the Union on Sunday, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said President Trump wants him to continue diplomatic efforts with North Korea until the last possible moment – or, as Tillerson memorably put it, “until the first bomb drops.”

Rex Tillerson was in China during the remarkable exchange of public insults between President Trump and North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un. Asked about the Chinese reaction to this war of words while the Secretary of State was attempting to conduct delicate multi-party diplomacy, Tillerson replied that Chinese President Xi Jinping and President Trump “have probably one of the closest relationships the president has with a head of state.”

Tillerson recalled the two face-to-face meetings between Xi and Trump to date, plus “seven or eight” substantial phone conversations, plus his own “close relationship” with the state councilor of China, Yang Jiechi. “Rest assured that the Chinese are not confused in any way what the American policy towards North Korea or what our actions in it and efforts are directed at,” he said.

Tillerson said Trump considers it very important to make Kim Jong-un aware that “he has military preparations ready to go and he has those military options on the table, and we have spent substantial time actually perfecting those.”

“But be clear: the president has also made clear to me that he wants this solved diplomatically. He’s not seeking to go to war,” he added.

Addressing the president’s public remark that Tillerson is a “wonderful Secretary of State” but is “wasting his time trying to negotiate with Little Rocket Man,” Tillerson said, “He has made it clear to me to continue my diplomatic efforts, which we are, and we will.”

“As I have told others, those diplomatic efforts will continue until the first bomb drops,” he said.

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