NEWS

Why the US is suddenly willing to talk to North Korea

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has softened America's stance on possible talks with North Korea, calling it "unrealistic" to expect the nuclear-armed country to come to the table ready to give up a weapons of mass destruction program that it invested so much in developing. Tillerson said his boss, President Donald Trump, endorses this position.


Tillerson's remarks Dec. 12 came two weeks after North Korea conducted a test with a missile that could potentially carry a nuclear warhead to the U.S. Eastern Seaboard — a milestone in its decades-long drive to pose an atomic threat to its American adversary that Trump has vowed to prevent, using military force if necessary.

"We are ready to talk anytime North Korea would like to talk. And we are ready to have the first meeting without preconditions," Tillerson said at the Atlantic Council think tank.

He said that the North would need to hold off on its weapons testing. This year, the North has conducted more than 20 ballistic missile launches and one nuclear test explosion, its most powerful yet.

(Photo from North Korean State Media)

"Let's just meet and we can talk about the weather if you want to. We can talk about whether it's a square table or a round table if that's what you are excited about," Tillerson said. "But can we at least sit down and see each other face to face and then we can begin to lay out a map, a road map, of what we might be willing to work towards."

Although Tillerson said the goal of U.S. policy remained denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, he added it was "not realistic to say we're only going to talk if you come to the table ready to give up your program. They've too much invested in it. The president is very realistic about that as well."

Baik Tae-hyun, spokesman of Seoul's Unification Ministry, said of Tillerson's comments that Seoul wishes for talks to "happen soon" if they contribute to the goal of finding a peaceful solution for the North Korean nuclear problem.

He said Washington and Seoul both maintain a firm stance that North Korea's nuclear weapons cannot be tolerated and should be completely discarded in a peaceful way.

White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement later that day that: "The President's views on North Korea have not changed."

"North Korea is acting in an unsafe way not only toward Japan, China, and South Korea, but the entire world. North Korea's actions are not good for anyone and certainly not good for North Korea," she said.

Also Read: Dennis Rodman wants to help prevent a war with North Korea

In public, Trump has been less sanguine about the possibilities of diplomacy with Kim Jong Un's authoritarian government, which faces growing international isolation and sanctions as it pursues nuclear weapons in defiance of multiple U.N. Security Council resolutions. In October, Trump appeared to undercut Tillerson when he said he was "wasting his time" trying to negotiate with North Korea, just as Tillerson said the U.S. had backchannel communications with the North.

Trump, who has traded insults with Kim, kept up his tough talk. As he signed a $700 billion defense authorization bill that includes additional spending on missile defense, he referred to North Korea as a "vile dictatorship."

"We're working very diligently on that — building up forces. We'll see how it all turns out. It's a very bad situation — a situation that should have been handled long ago by other administrations," Trump said.

Tillerson did not indicate that North Korea had signaled a new readiness to talk, but said that "they clearly understand that if we're going to talk, we've got to have a period of quiet" in weapons tests.

Tillerson stressed that the U.S. would not accept a nuclear-armed North Korea, as it flouts international norms and might spread weapons technology to non-state groups in ways that other nuclear powers have not.

In a rare admission of discussion of a highly sensitive topic, Tillerson said Washington has discussed with Beijing how North Korea's nuclear weapons might be secured in case of instability there.

"The most important thing to us would be securing those nuclear weapons that they have already developed and ensuring that nothing falls into the hands of people who we would not want to have it. We've had conversations with the Chinese about how that might be done," Tillerson said.

It appeared to be the first public recognition from an administration official that the U.S. has discussed North Korean contingencies with China, which fought with the North against the U.S. in the 1950-53 Korean War. The Trump administration has held a series of high-level dialogues with Beijing this year, and U.S. and Chinese generals held rare talks in late November about how the two militaries might communicate in a crisis although U.S. officials said the dialogue wasn't centered on North Korea.

Tillerson said that the U.S. has assured China that in the event that American troops had to cross northward of the demilitarized zone separating the two Koreas, it would retreat back south once stability returned.

"That is our commitment we made to them. Our only objective is to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula, and that is all," Tillerson said.

Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association, said Tillerson's proposal for direct talks with North Korea without preconditions was overdue and a welcome shift in position, but both sides needed to demonstrate restraint.

"For North Korea that means a halt to all nuclear and ballistic missile tests, and for the United States, refraining from military maneuvers and overflights that appear to be practice runs for an attack on the North," Kimball said. "If such restraint is not forthcoming, we can expect a further escalation of tensions and a growing risk of a catastrophic war."

Last week, the United States flew a B-1B supersonic bomber over South Korea as part of a massive combined aerial exercise involving more than 200 warplanes. North Korea says such drills are preparations for invasion.

Humor

These old Navy training videos on how to flirt are hilariously bad

The National Archives hosts countless educational films that have come from the military throughout the ages. If you want to learn about declassified nuclear testing, they've got it. If you want to learn how to properly resist communist propaganda, they've got that, too. If you want to learn the 1960's way of wooing women, you better believe the U.S. Military has wasted money on making those videos, too.

Keep reading... Show less
Articles

How R. Lee Ermey's Hollywood break is an inspiration to us all

While there have been many outstanding actors and celebrities who have raised their right hand, there has never been a veteran who could finger point his way to the top of Hollywood stardom quite like the late great Gunnery Sergeant R. Lee Ermey.

Keep reading... Show less
Podcast

Combat poetry reveals what life is like on the Afghan front lines

Justin Eggen had some things stuck in his head for a long time during — but especially after — his two deployments to Afghanistan. These thoughts became poems and short stories that reflected his feelings and personal experience as a Marine in Marjah and in Afghanistan's Sangin Valley. They are Eggen's way of handling the overwhelming series of emotions from and memories of his time there.

Keep reading... Show less
Military Life

7 things grunts think about on watch in fighting holes

If nothing else has made you question your choice to join the infantry before, digging a fighting hole definitely will. It's always miserable, it's extremely time consuming, and there's always a giant rock waiting for you once you're halfway down. But, once you get that hole dug, it's smooth sailing. Now, all you have to do is deal with the sleep deprivation and crummy weather.

Keep reading... Show less
History

That time US troops found 200 tons of stolen Nazi gold

In the closing months of World War II, the defeated Nazi Army scrambled to hide the hundreds of tons of gold they had despicably stripped from various nations during their occupation. As they hurriedly stashed their ill-gotten gains, they were unaware that the Allies were drawing near.

Keep reading... Show less
Lists

10 military spouses you should unfriend on Facebook immediately

Often, there comes a point when people decide to give their Facebook friends list an overhaul.

They completely change their social landscape online by avoiding accepting friend requests from certain types of people, and they give their current friends list a good, hard scrub.

Everyone has their reasons. Maybe they're doing it for security purposes, or because a handful of people's posts drive them crazy or they want to keep a more professional profile. Military spouses in particular might do so because they want to focus on positive, stress-free relationships – that is, the ones that bring wine, wear sweat pants, and check judgment at the door.

Keep reading... Show less
GEAR & TECH

This JASSM variant could replace the Harpoon

For a long time, the AGM-84/RGM-84 Harpoon missile has been the primary anti-ship weapon of the United States military. Over the years, with improvements, it's successfully held the line. But, as is perpetually the case, time and technological advances have forced the U.S. Military to look for a missile with even more reach and punch.

Keep reading... Show less
Entertainment

7 Marvel Cinematic Universe movies to watch before 'Infinity War'

Not planning a two-day Marvel Cinematic Universe marathon right before seeing "Avengers: Infinity War?"

Nobody has time for that.

To accommodate fans who want to freshen up their knowledge, we collected a list of the most essential MCU movies to watch right before you see "Infinity War," which is scheduled for release April 27, 2018.

Keep reading... Show less