Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the U.S. is “a long ways from negotiations” with North Korea on Thursday, cautioning that expectations about the diplomatic relations between the two countries should be “realistic.”
“In terms of direct talks with the United States, you ask negotiations and we’re a long ways from negotiations,” Tillerson said of the potential of talks with North Korea during a press conference in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
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The U.S. diplomat added: “I think we just need to be very clear-eyed and realistic about it. I think the first step — and I’ve said this before, is to have talks.”
The remarks comes two days after President Donald Trump expressed optimism that North Korea leader Kim Jong Un may be amenable to ending the country’s nuclear weapons program.
The president, speaking to reporters during a bilateral meeting with the Swedish prime minister on Tuesday, said he believed North Korean officials were “sincere” in telling their South Korean counterparts during recent talks that they’d be open to halting their nuclear program.
“We have made progress,” Trump said of North Korea. “There’s no question about it.”
Trump partially credited a slew of “biting” U.S. sanctions — and himself — in helping to bring North Korea to the table.
“We’ve come certainly a long way, at least rhetorically, with North Korea,” said. “It would be a great thing for the world, it would be a great thing for North Korea, it would be a great thing for the peninsula, but we’ll see what happens.”
Tillerson on Thursday concurred with the president that diplomatic talks between North and South Korea signaled “potentially positive signals,” but he voiced uncertainty over whether U.S. officials would eventually meet face-to-face with North Korean officials.
Tillerson delivered the remarks during his first diplomatic tour through the continent of Africa.