US Secretary of State Says He is Willing to Meet with North Korea to Discuss the Weather

Another ICBM test has quickly changed the calculations at the State Department in regards to talks with North Korea:

Rex Tillerson

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Tuesday that Washington is willing to begin talks with North Korea without preconditions.

Tillerson’s remark came as tensions have increased over North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs with its latest test of an intercontinental ballistic missile on Nov. 29.

“We’re ready to talk whenever North Korea is ready to talk and we’re willing to have a first meeting without preconditions,” he told a forum here. “We can talk about the weather if you want.”

It was a markedly different tone from Washington’s earlier insistence that Pyongyang first halt its missile and nuclear testing and demonstrate its sincerity about denuclearization.

“I don’t think it’s realistic if you say we’re only going to talk if you give up your programs,” Tillerson continued. “It really depends on how you bring it up. He’s clearly not like his father or his grandfather, and we don’t know what it will be like to engage with him.  [Yonhap]

You can read more at the link.

President Trump Warns North Korea to Not Underestimate the US During National Assembly Speech

It seems that when President Trump goes on these foreign trips he likes to stick to his prepared script which really seems to help articulate the message he is trying to make.  I think the message to North Korea was made quite clear during his speech to the ROK National Assembly:

President Donald Trump speaks at the National Assembly in Seoul, Wednesday. Trump was on a two-day official visit to South Korea, the second stop on his 12-day tour of Asia. / Yonhap

U.S. President Donald Trump stressed “peace through strength” in his speech at the National Assembly, Wednesday, giving a stern warning to North Korea.

“The regime has interpreted America’s past restraint as weakness,” Trump said referring to North Korea. “Do not underestimate us. Do not try us. We will defend our common security, our shared prosperity and our sacred liberty.”

The U.S. president cited the country’s military assets deployed around the peninsula the world’s three largest aircraft carriers, loaded to the maximum with F-35 and F-18 fighter jets, in addition to nuclear submarines.

“The weapons you are acquiring are not making you safer,” Trump said. “We will offer a path to a much better future,” he added, on the condition of Pyongyang’s “total denuclearization.”

This was the first address by a sitting American leader here in nearly a quarter century. South Korean lawmakers applauded the speech 22 times, particularly when the American leader lauded the nation’s flourishing democracy and eye-opening economic development.

The U.S. leader dedicated most of his 35-minute speech to awakening the atrocities taking place in North Korea forced labor, starvation, sexual exploitation, murder and torture labeling the country as “hell.”

“The regime has made numerous lethal incursions in South Korea, attempted to assassinate senior leaders, attacked South Korean ships and tortured Otto Warmbier, ultimately leading to that fine young man’s death.”

He highlighted its stark difference with the southern part of the peninsula that features the “stunning skyline of Seoul. The president described the armistice line between the two Koreas as a line “between peace and war, between decency and depravity, between law and tyranny, between hope and total despair.”  [Korea Times]

You can read more at the link and you can watch his full comments at the below video:

Overall I was pretty impressed with his speech especially when he highlights all the human rights abuses happening in North Korea which is often overlooked by politicians and the media.

President Trump’s Negotiating Strategy Over US-ROK Free Trade Agreement Leaked to the Media

Here is a media leak if true that provides some insight into the US negotiating strategy in regards to the modifications the US wants in the US-ROK Free Trade Agreement:

In an Oval Office meeting earlier this month, President Trump gave his top trade negotiator, Robert Lighthizer, an Art of the Deal-style coaching session on how to negotiate with the South Koreans.

Trump’s impromptu coaching came in the middle of a pivotal conversation with top officials about whether or not to withdraw from the U.S.-Korean trade deal. Sources familiar with the conversation recounted the exchange for Axios, and the White House did not dispute this account.

A number of senior officials and cabinet secretaries were present for the conversation, including Defense Secretary Mattis, Agriculture Secretary Perdue, and Secretary of State Tillerson. At issue was whether the U.S. would withdraw from the Korean trade deal — an action Trump threatened but still hasn’t done.

“You’ve got 30 days, and if you don’t get concessions then I’m pulling out,” Trump told Lighthizer.

“Ok, well I’ll tell the Koreans they’ve got 30 days,” Lighthizer replied.

“No, no, no,” Trump interjected. “That’s not how you negotiate. You don’t tell them they’ve got 30 days. You tell them, ‘This guy’s so crazy he could pull out any minute.'”

“That’s what you tell them: Any minute,” Trump continued. “And by the way, I might. You guys all need to know I might. You don’t tell them 30 days. If they take 30 days they’ll stretch this out.”  [Axios]

First of all conversations like this should not be leaked out of the White House.  These leaks have to stop. Secondly as the article states the crazy approach only works if people think you will actually follow through with the threat.  That is why Kim Jong-un’s rhetoric is taken so seriously.

US Secretary of State Says Direct Talks Being Held With North Korea Over Nuclear Program

This is not surprising to me, the only thing surprising is that the US Secretary of State is admitting to the talks:

The United States is communicating with North Korea as it seeks to encourage the regime to abandon its build up of nuclear weapons, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said.

Mr Tillerson made his comments in Beijing after holding talks with Chinese leaders on Saturday amid rising concerns over Pyongyang’s military programme.

Washington is known to have back channels which it uses to help negotiate the release of US citizens who have been held captive in the North.

But Mr Tillerson’s disclosure suggests US officials are also using secret talks to convince Pyongyang to hold official negotiations aimed at easing tensions.  [The Telegraph]

You can read more at the link.

Representative Duncan Hunter Recommends A Preventative Strike on North Korea

Here is the latest opinion on what to do about North Korea:

U.S. Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., listens to testimony at a House Committee on Armed Services hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington on on , Sept. 7, 2017. Hunter said Thursday, Sept. 21, that the United States should preemptively strike North Korea.

Rep. Duncan Hunter said that the United States needs to launch a preemptive strike against North Korea in order to prevent the rogue nation from harming the U.S. first.

“You could assume, right now, that we have a nuclear missile aimed at the United States, and here in San Diego. Why would they not aim here, at Hawaii, Guam, our major naval bases?” Hunter, a California Republican, said during an appearance on San Diego’s KUSI television station Thursday.

“The question is, do you wait for one of those? Or, two? Do you pre-emptively strike them? And that’s what the president has to wrestle with. I would pre-emptively strike them. You could call it declaring war, call it whatever you want,” Hunter continued.  [Stars & Stripes]

You can read more at the link.