President Donald Trump said Wednesday that “talking is not the answer” when it comes to reining in North Korea — seeming to contradict a statement from his top diplomat that the US will continue to seek a peaceful resolution to tensions with Pyongyang despite its provocative missile tests.
“The U.S. has been talking to North Korea, and paying them extortion money, for 25 years. Talking is not the answer!” Trump tweeted just days after North Korea launched a missile that flew over northern Japan.
It was not immediately clear what Trump meant by “extortion money,” though previous administrations have tried to defuse nuclear tensions by offering the North Korean regime food and aid packages.
The North Korean launch was “the first step of the military operation of the (North Korean military) in the Pacific and a meaningful prelude to containing Guam,” North Korea state media said.
But despite the most recent provocation, Trump’s suggestion that talk is not the answer seems to break with recent comments made by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Sunday when he was asked about how the US views North Korean missile launches.
“We do view it as a provocative act against the United States and our allies,” Tillerson said in an interview on “Fox News Sunday.” “We’re going to continue our peaceful pressure campaign as I have described it, working with allies, working with China as well to see if we can bring the regime in Pyongyang to the negotiating table.”
On Wednesday, Defense Secretary James Mattis, asked about Trump’s tweet, reiterated the call for diplomacy while speaking before a meeting with South Korean Defense Minister Song Young-moo.
Asked if the US was out of diplomatic solutions when it comes to North Korea, Mattis simply replied, “No.”
He then elaborated, “We’re never out of diplomatic solutions. We continue to work together and the minister and I share a responsibility to provide for the protection of our nations, our populations and our interests, which is what we are here to discuss today, and look for all the areas with we can collaborate.”
Trump’s post comes just hours after North Korea’s state-run media reported that leader Kim Jong-Un presided over the dawn launch Tuesday of the “ultra-modern rocket system,” the first missile ever fired from Pyongyang, the nation’s capital.
North Korean officials told CNN in Pyongyang that Kim was “very satisfied with the performance of the missile.”
The intermediate-range missile, identified by the North Koreans as the Hwasong-12, flew over Japan, further fueling tensions between North Korea and the United States and its allies, Japan and South Korea.
“The world has received North Korea’s latest message loud and clear: this regime has signaled its contempt for its neighbors, for all members of the United Nations, and for minimum standards of acceptable international behavior,” Trump said in an initial statement on Tuesday, taking a more measured tone than in his previous remarks.
“Threatening and destabilizing actions only increase the North Korean regime’s isolation in the region and among all nations of the world. All options are on the table.”
Early Wednesday, the US conducted a test intercept of a medium range ballistic missile off the coast of Hawaii, according to a statement from the US Missile Defense Agency.