- REUTERS/Jason Reed
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told reporters during a visit to China that the US conflict with North Korea is “overheated” and that the first priority was to calm things down, The Washington Post reported on Saturday.
He added that the US has a direct line of communication open with Pyongyang over North Korea’s nuclear tests. “We’re not in a dark situation, a blackout,” Tillerson said.
The threat posed by North Korea has rapidly escalated in recent weeks. The rogue nation fired a missile over Japan a few weeks ago for the second time in two months.
Earlier this month, North Korea conducted its sixth and most powerful nuclear test, one the country said was a hydrogen bomb.
In August, following reports from the Defense Intelligence Agency that North Korea could make nuclear warheads small enough to fit on missiles and could have as many as 60 nuclear devices, Trump issued a sharp warning to the country.
North Korea “best not make any more threats to the United States” or it will “be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen,” Trump said at the time, according to press pool reports.
Trump ramped up his rhetoric even further when the United Nations General Assembly convened last week, saying that “rocket man” Kim Jong Un was on a “suicide mission,” and that if he did not back down, the US would “have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea.”
Kim responded by saying he would “surely and definitely tame the mentally deranged U.S. dotard with fire.” North Korea’s foreign minister also said that Trump’s comments made the possibility of a missile attack on the US mainland “all the more inevitable.”
Tillerson’s remarks to reporters came following a series of meetings between top US and Chinese officials that included both sides striking “a careful, conciliatory tone,” per The Post. Both sides focused on the US-China relationship and avoided addressing North Korea, and Chinese president Xi Jinping said that Trump’s upcoming Asia trip would be a “special, wonderful, and successful” event.
However, when he was pressed on the topic of North Korea, Tillerson said “the first thing to do is calm things down,” according to The Post.
When he was asked whether Trump would stop antagonizing the rogue nation by tweeting about Kim Jong Un, Tillerson reportedly replied, “It would help if North Korea stopped firing missiles.”