The Trump administration said Tuesday it isn't convinced that North Korea is willing to start productive negotiations with South Korea, and said talks alone won't be enough for the U.S. to soften its stance toward the regime.
“North Korea can talk with anyone they want, but the U.S. is not going to recognize it or acknowledge it until they agree to ban the nuclear weapons that they have,” U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley told reporters Tuesday.
She stressed that the optics of North-South talks won't do the trick, and that movement on its nuclear position is needed.
“We don't think we need a Band-Aid and we don't think we need to smile and take a picture,” Haley said.
Haley and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson have been working to implement a “peaceful pressure” campaign to impose international sanctions that would force North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un to agree to dismantle his nuclear weapons program. Those talks have not begun, in part because the North Koreans continue to test ballistic missiles.
But South Korean leaders have broached the possibility of negotiations pertaining to the communist state’s participation in the 2018 Winter Olympics.
Haley's remarks were echoed by State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert, who said officials think North Korea will need to make real concessions.
“If the two countries decide that they want to have talks, that would be certainly their choice,” Nauert said Tuesday. “We are very skeptical of Kim Jong Un’s sincerity in sitting down and having talks. Our policy hasn't changed, the South Koreans' policy has not changed, that we both support a denuclearized Korean peninsula — as, frankly, does the world.”
Tillerson has expressed a willingness to have an initial meeting with North Korea without preconditions, but the administration has also said that the talks would be contingent on a cessation of weapons tests by the regime.
"We don't think having a dialogue where the North Koreans come to the table assuming they're going to maintain their nuclear weapons is productive," Tillerson told reporters in an Aug. 1 press briefing.
North and South Korean officials may have a meeting even as Haley and other western officials brace for the possibility of another ballistic missile test.