U.S. in direct communication with North Korea, says Tillerson

The New York Times reports: The Trump administration acknowledged on Saturday for the first time that it was in direct communication with the government of North Korea over its missile and nuclear tests, opening a possible way forward beyond the escalating threats of a military confrontation from both sides.

“We are probing, so stay tuned,” Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson said, when pressed about how he might begin a conversation with Kim Jong-un, the North Korean leader, that could avert what many government officials fear is a significant chance of open conflict between the two countries.

“We ask, ‘Would you like to talk?’ We have lines of communications to Pyongyang — we’re not in a dark situation, a blackout,” he added. “We have a couple, three channels open to Pyongyang,” a reference to North Korea’s capital.

The two countries have been trading public threats over North Korea’s nuclear program, with the North declaring that its missiles have the capacity to strike the United States and President Trump vowing to “totally destroy” North Korea.

Mr. Tillerson gave no indication of what the administration might be willing to give up in any negotiations, and Mr. Trump has made clear he would make no concessions. But many inside and outside government have noted there were no major military exercises between the United States and South Korea scheduled until the spring, so the promise of scaling them back could be dangled. [Continue reading…]

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