One day after Rex Tillerson revealed for the first time that the US has been in direct - if secret - contact with the government of North Korea over its missile and nuclear tests, a stunning revelation considering that administration officials have until this point insisted that there has been only limited, indirect contact between the White House and the Kim regime, Trump, in his latest Sunday morning tirade, tweeted his Secretary of State to effectively stop negotiating with "Little Rocket Man" and to save his energy as Save your energy as Trump will "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... Save your energy Rex, 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...— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 1, 2017
...Save your energy Rex, we'll do what has to be done!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 1, 2017
According to a handful of kneejerk reactions by conflict analysts, Trump's statement is effectively an admission that war appears inevitable as diplomatic negotiations, largely for optical purposes, are doomed to failure. Of course, this could be just Trump's latest attempt at posturing, coupled with a resumption in bilateral escalations with North Korea. It is also a very troubling, and cavalier way to gamble with millions of people's lives.
Trump is now basically saying that he wants nuclear war with N. Korea ???? https://t.co/4KqHxwemSG— Gissur Simonarson (@GissiSim) October 1, 2017
As reported yesterday, during a press conference on Saturday in China, Tillerson said “we are probing, so stay tuned,” when asked about how he might begin a conversation with Kim Jong-un. Following Tillerson's surprising admission of high level contact with Pyongyang, the NYT compared the secret backchanneling to a strategy used by the Obama administration to help forge what became the Iran deal – a comparison that Tillerson swiftly pushed back against. “We are not going to put a deal together with North Korea that’s as flimsy as the one in Iran,” he said. He added that the situation is different and that the North already has nuclear weapons, while Iran was still years away from obtaining them.
“We ask, ‘Would you like to talk?’ We have lines of communication to Pyongyang – we’re not in a dark situation, a blackout. We have a couple, three channels open to Pyongyang,” he added, speaking at the residence of the US ambassador to Beijing after a meeting with China’s top leadership. He would not say if the North Koreans had responded, beyond a heated exchange of threats in recent weeks. Trump has repeatedly threatened to “totally destroy” North Korea, while the North has threatened to conduct a nuclear test over the Pacific Ocean, and to shoot down US aircraft flying in international waters if they come uncomfortably close to North Korean territory.
When asked whether those channels ran through China, he shook his head. “Directly,” he said. “We have our own channels.”Tillerson added that the most important thing was to lower the tensions between the two countries.
"I think everyone would like for it to calm down." Everyone, except for Trump it appears, who is now - at least based on his public tweeting - attempting to sabotage the diplomatic process and proceed right to the next step. Which merely further underscores why, as the WaPo reported last week, North Korea has been quietly seeking the help of Republican-linked analysts in Washington to "figure out Trump."