A day after Secretary of State Rex Tillerson suggested that the United States is probing a way to open up negotiation channels with North Korea, President Trump took to Twitter to decry the effort as a waste of time, threatening that the United States will “do what has to be done.”
The tweets come just six days after North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho called Trump’s tweets a declaration of war on the floor of the United Nations.
On Saturday, Reuters reported that the United States, after months of rising tensions with North Korea, had begun directly communicating with the government in Pyongyang. Tillerson called the situation between the two countries “a bit overheated right now” and indicated that “everyone would like for it to calm down.”
“Obviously it would help if North Korea would stop firing off missiles. That’d calm things down a lot,” Tillerson said.
He did not make any mention of Trump’s tweets or public statements about North Korea, which have become increasingly aggressive as North Korea has continued a series of missile tests. In a speech during the opening week of the U.N. General Assembly, Trump threatened to “destroy North Korea,” a country of 25 million inhabitants. He has also taken to referring to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un as “Rocket Man.”
He also previously tweeted that “talking is not the answer” to dealing with North Korea.
This is not the first time that Trump has tweeted statements that directly contradict Tillerson’s stated diplomatic goals. In February, while on a trip to Mexico to attempt to strengthen diplomatic relations with the country following Trump’s infamous remark that the country is sending “rapists” to the United States, Tillerson reportedly expressed frustration upon learning that the president had told manufacturing CEOs that the United States was getting the “really bad dudes” out of the country, an apparent dig at Mexico. Tillerson and the State Department also tried to remain neutral on the issue of the dispute between Qatar and Saudi Arabia, while Trump openly tweeted his support for the Saudis.
Tillerson has said that Trump’s tweets are neither “an obstacle” nor “an assistance.” But he has also, at times, tried to distance the State Department from Trump’s remarks, telling Fox News Sunday’s Chris Wallace in August that “the president speaks for himself.”
Trump will have an opportunity to speak for himself with respect to North Korea when he visits Japan, South Korea, China, Vietnam, and the Philippines in November. The White House has stated that it hopes the visit will be a chance to “strengthen the international resolve to confront the North Korean threat and ensure the complete, verifiable, and irreversible denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.”