Following the surprising news that President Trump accepted an invitation to meet with Kim Jong-un by May, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is here to set the record straight. The development, of course, followed a South Korean delegation’s historic meeting with the North Korean leader, as well as his public hints that he was willing to meet with Trump to discuss shutting down Pyongyang’s nuclear program. Tillerson appears to be warding off any hopes for a major breakthrough with this meeting and says these will be mere introductory “talks” rather than “negotiations.”
Tillerson was walking things back to a recent statement he made, which is that global relations with North Korea are so delicate that negotiations are too much to hope for in the immediate future. He told reporters that Trump made the decision to meet with Kim Jong-un after a “fairly dramatic” shift from the North Korean leader. Still, Tillerson warns people not to expect too much. Via CNN:
“With respect to talks with North Korea versus negotiations — and I think this seems to be something that people continue to struggle with the difference — my comments have been that the conditions are not right for negotiations.”
Tillerson also reiterated that both the U.S. and South Korea were surprised that the normally cagey and reclusive Kim Jong-un appeared to be so forthcoming in his eagerness to speak with Trump. This probably has plenty to do with the harsh economic sanctions levied by both the U.S. and the U.N. Still, it’s difficult to imagine these two leaders coming together and instantaneously hammering out a deal for North Korea to denuclearize, especially given how their insult-flinging animosity may not go far to heal a rift that’s 70 years in the making.