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Trump tweet on North Korea clashes with claims of dialogue

‘Tillerson is wasting time trying to negotiate with Little Rocket Man,’ says US president

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un: his foreign minister said the country would “shoot down United States strategic bombers”. Photograph: Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP

A day after his secretary of state said the US had direct lines of communication to North Korea and was “probing” to find ways to resolve escalating nuclear tension between the two countries, Donald Trump tweeted that his top diplomat should “save his energy” as “we’ll do what has to be done!”

“I told Rex Tillerson, our wonderful secretary of state, that he is wasting his time trying to negotiate with Little Rocket Man,” the president wrote, from his golf club in New Jersey and using the nickname he has adopted for North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un. Mr Tillerson was speaking in Beijing, where he met Chinese president Xi Jinping.

Tensions between Washington and Pyongyang have grown as North Korea has tested missiles and a nuclear device, in its aim to develop a nuclear weapon that could reach the US mainland. Several missiles fired have flown over Japan, and Pyongyang threatened to test a hydrogen bomb over the Pacific ocean .


Mr Trump has responded with taunts and threats, through social media and in speeches, including at his debut last month at the United Nations in New York which was greeted by diplomats with alarm. Tough sanctions on North Korea have been imposed through the UN, and the US has promised to deploy “ strategic military assets” near the Korean peninsula.

North Korea threats

North Korea’s foreign minister said the country would “shoot down United States strategic bombers even when they are not inside the airspace border of our country”. Ri Yong-ho also said at the UN it was “ inevitable” his country would fire missiles at the US mainland, and said Mr Trump had declared war. On Saturday, Mr Tillerson told reporters in China: “We are probing, so stay tuned. We ask: ‘Would you like to talk?’”

The former oil executive then said the US had “a couple of, three channels, open to Pyongyang”. “We can talk to them. We do talk to them,” Mr Tillerson said, although he also said “we haven’t even gotten” as far as establishing a dialogue. In a statement, state department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said: “North Korean officials have shown no indication that they are interested in or are ready for talks regarding denuclearisation.”

“I think the whole situation’s a bit overheated right now,” said Mr Tillerson. “I think 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.”

On Sunday, a morning he spent stoking broiling controversies over National Football League anthem protests and his reaction to a natural disaster in Puerto Rico, the president appeared to disregard such advice. Mr Tillerson met Chinese president Xi on Saturday, saying in opening remarks that relations between the two countries would “grow and mature on the strength of the relationship between yourself and President Trump”. Trump is expected to visit Beijing in November. – (Guardian service)