Tillerson says U.S. is ready to talk to North Korea — but will Trump be on the line?

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said on Saturday, "We're not in a dark situation or a blackout. We have a couple of direct channels to Pyongyang." CREDIT: Andy Wong/AP Photo

After two months of threats, the United States has signaled it is open for diplomatic talks with North Korea. While on a visit to Beijing, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the U.S. is “probing” to see if Pyongyang is interested in talks, Reuters reported on Saturday.

“We ask: ‘Would you like to talk?'” said Tillerson, who added that things had gotten “overheated” and that it would help “if North Korea would stop firing off missiles. That’d calm things down a lot.” He did not elaborate if the dialogue would hinge on North Korea first agreeing to give up its nuclear and ballistic missile programs, which Pyongyang insists are non-starters.

This marks a radical shift in strategy, as President Donald Trump has previously said that “talking is not the answer” in dealing with North Korea. The president has taken every opportunity — on social media, in press conferences, and on the floor of the U.N. — to threaten North Korea with military action and belittle its leader, Kim Jong Un, who, for his own part, has returned the volleys with alacrity, vowing to attack Guam and likening Trump to a senile barking dog.

The president has limited himself to one tweet targeting the isolated country in the past week, accusing it of torturing Otto Warmbier (the American student detained by North Korean authorities who died from injuries sustained while in captivity). Trump is also set to visit Japan, South Korea, China, Vietnam, and the Philippines in November, with the White House hoping the visit will “will strengthen the international resolve to confront the North Korean threat and ensure the complete, verifiable, and irreversible denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.”

Tensions between the United States and North Korea came to head during the U.N. General Assembly (UNGA) in New York when President Donald Trump threatened to “totally destroy” the country of 25 million and North Korea responded to his verbal threats — as well as U.S. military exercises over its waters — as a “declaration of war” and promised “countermeasures.”

Pyongyang has not publicly responded to Tillerson’s comments. However, Reuters reports that according to South Korean state media, North Korea is moving missiles — possibly intercontinental ballistic missiles, which it has been testing — from its missile development facility in northern Pyongyang, but did not specify where they were being moved.