During a press availability with Djiboutian Foreign Minister Mahamoud Ali Youssouf U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was asked about the recent stunning developments between the U.S. and North Korea. The Q&A segment is outlined below:
QUESTION: Thank you so much. Mr. Secretary, for months you’ve been saying that conditions are not yet right for talks with North Korea, and that you would know it when you saw it. Less than 24 hours ago, that was still your position. What changed in the last 24 hours that gave the Trump administration confidence that now is the right time? Can you explain the logic behind starting this process, talks about talks, as you’ve described it at the level of the leaders of the country? And did you know when you made those comments yesterday that this meeting was in the works?
SECRETARY TILLERSON: 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 we’re – the conditions are not right for negotiations, but we’ve been saying for some time we are open to talks.
President Trump has said for some time that he was open to talks and he would willingly meet with Kim Jong-un when conditions were right and the time was right. And I think in the President’s judgment, that time has arrived now. So there’s no – in my comments yesterday, I was indicating comments about negotiations, but we’ve been open for talks for some time.
In terms of the decision to engage between President Trump and Kim Jong-un, that’s a decision the President took himself. I spoke to him very early this morning about that decision and we had a good conversation. This is something that he’s had on his mind for quite some time, so it was not a surprise in any way, because I think this has long been something. He’s expressed it openly before about his willingness to meet with Kim Jong-un.
So now, I think it’s a question of agreeing on a timing of that first meeting between the two of them and a location, and that will take some weeks before we get all that worked out. So no surprise.
We know that there’s been a lot of discussion, and you’ve been reading about it too through the intra-Korean dialogue. We also had been having contacts back and forth with them, as you’re well aware, through channels that we have had open for some time. And I think this was the most forward-leaning report that we’ve have had in terms of Kim Jong-un’s, not just willingness, but his strong desire for talks.
So I think it was really – what changed was his posture in a fairly dramatic way that, in all honesty, was a – came as a little bit of a surprise to us as well that he was so forward-leaning in his conversations with the delegation from South Korea. (LINK)