Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s team continues to see diplomacy as a viable path for resolving the standoff with North Korea, contrary to an adviser to President Trump.
“We do diplomacy in this building,” State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert told reporters Tuesday when asked about the regime. “I think there is more that we could do, yeah.”
That was an attempt to justify continuing Tillerson’s efforts to run a “peaceful pressure” campaign against North Korea, before the regime definitively obtains the ability to strike the United States with a nuclear weapon. North Korea has alarmed U.S. officials by demonstrating at least the ability to fire a missile that could hit the United States, as well as detonate nuclear weapons.
“Well, at this point, North Korea has done everything wrong as an actor on the global stage that a country can do,” White House homeland security advisor Tom Bossert said Tuesday. “President Trump has used just about everything you can use, short of starving the people of North Korea to death, to change their behavior. So, we don't have a lot of room left here to apply pressure to change their behavior."
That remark came in the immediate context of a briefing blaming North Korea for a major cyberattack that occurred in May, the same day that White House national security advisor H.R. McMaster warned that the time is running short for any kind of dialogue.
"The president has made very clear that on North Korea, for example, now is not the time to talk," McMaster said on CBS Tuesday morning. "And what he means is, there can't be negotiations under these current conditions. ... The problem is now that their programs have advanced so far we don't have time to do that again and so we can't repeat the failed pattern of the past."
McMaster reiterated that the Trump administration is willing to attack North Korea to prevent the regime from developing the ability to place their nuclear weapons on their new intercontinental ballistic missiles and fire them successfully at the United States.
"We can't tolerate that risk,” he said. "If North Korea has a nuclear weapon, who are you going to try to prevent getting one? Look at the regime, the hostility of this regime to the whole world.”
Nauert maintained that those remarks don’t suggest the window of opportunity for diplomacy has passed. In particular, she noted that Tillerson is still lobbying China to impose an oil embargo that the United States believes would bring North Korea sprinting to the negotiating table. “So, regardless of what others in the U.S. government say, we're pushing ahead with peaceful diplomacy [and] maximum pressure,” she said.