Trump Administration Sends Mixed Messages On North Korea


During an interview with BBC radio on Thursday, Gorka rebuffed Tillerson's assertion on Wednesday that the U.S. does not face an "imminent threat" from North Korea following President Donald Trump's threats aimed at the nuclear-armed nation.

"It is the job of Secretary Mattis, the secretary of defense, to talk about the military options, and he has done so unequivocally", Gorka said in the interview.

Trump on Tuesday threatened "fire and fury" if North Korea made more threats to the U.S. And North Korea's military said it was examining plans for attacking Guam.

U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis issued a stark warning earlier Wednesday, telling Pyongyang the United States and its allies would win any arms race or conflict. "These statements are irresponsible and risky, and also senselessly provide a boon to domestic North Korean propaganda which has long sought to portray the United States as a threat to their people".

Then-President Barack Obama speaks as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton listens at a Cabinet meeting at the White House on November 28, 2012, in Washington.

That's very different from what Tillerson said.

He pointed out that the UN Security Council unanimously voted last week to characterize North Korea's statements as a "threat to the world's community".

At the ASEAN gathering, Tillerson said the USA had success in pushing for increased isolation of North Korea, including full implementation of new United Nations sanctions.

"Put yourself in President Trump's shoes", he said. "Whether it's the White House the State Department, we're speaking with one voice". Foreign-policy experts caution, though, the increasingly bellicose rhetoric from both Trump and North Korean President Kim Jong Un runs the risk that the two countries could stumble into actual conflict.

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Tillerson is already familiar with presidential pronouncements complicating his work. Mexican officials freaked out.

But, on a deeper and more important level, these recent commentscouldundermine high-stakes diplomatic efforts and send a confusing signal to North Korea at a time where lowering tensions, not raising them, is vital to preventing a scary situation from spiraling further out of control.

Tillerson says he believes that's why North Korea's rhetoric is becoming louder and more threatening. That's where we've been, that's where we are right now. and that's where we hope to remain.

Republican Sen. Cory Gardner said the administration needed to lean on China, North Korea's closest ally, using sanctions.

He says "the pressure is starting to show".

But Tillerson says North Korea's rhetoric is simply getting louder and more threatening because of new global pressure.

North Korea responded by claiming it is preparing a plan to fire missiles at the USA territory of Guam in the western Pacific.

And Tillerson offered a thought on the dangers of making public threats.

"Whether we've got them backed into a corner or not is hard to say, but diplomatically you never like to have someone in a corner without a way for them to get out", he added.