The White House just undercut Rex Tillerson again on North Korea

Officials in Donald Trump's administration have appeared to contradict Secretary of State Rex Tillerson's claim that the U.S. could open talks with North Korea without preconditions.

In South Korea, which will host the Winter Olympics in the resort area of Pyeongchang from February 9-25, Tillerson's remarks appeared to be welcome after months in which North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and U.S. President Donald Trump have traded insults and heated rhetoric.

Although Tillerson said the goal of USA policy remained denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, he said it was "not realistic to say we're only going to talk if you come to the table ready to give up your program".

Tillerson said the USA has assured China that in the event that American troops had to cross north of the demilitarized zone separating the two Koreas, it would retreat back south once stability returned.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson talks to members of the media at the State Department in Washington, DC, U.S. on November 20, 2017.

"But they have to come to the table and they have to come to the table with the view that they are going to make a different choice".

However, other Trump administration officials said no negotiations could begin until North Korea renounced its belligerent posture.

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But Wi Seong-rak, former South Korean ambassador to Russian Federation and South Korea's senior representative to the Six-Party Talks, sees Tillerson's remarks as being "identical to [the US's] current stance". "Our military preparedness is strong... the president has ordered our military planners to have a full range of contingencies, and they are ready", he told the Atlantic Council. "I will continue our diplomatic efforts until the first bomb drops", Tillerson said, but added that "there are multiple military options that have been developed to deal with a failure on my part". This week the US, South Korea and Japan were engaged in testing anti-missile systems.

"It surely is out of line with the U.S.' previous posture and seems to be moving toward the North's demand to some extent", said James Kim, a researcher at the Asan Institute for Policy Studies.

But Tillerson's comments Tuesday were the most explicit, on-the-record statement from an administration official to date outlining their plans. CNN also concluded that Tillerson had given North Korea "a direct public invitation... to put aside an escalating cycle of [nuclear weapon and missile] tests and taunts [by Trump] and engage in diplomacy".

Experts agreed that Tillerson's "talks-without-conditions" remarks have sent a message to the North that it is ready to talk.

Echoing the White House, a State Department spokesman said Washington was willing to hold talks only "when the time is right". The top UN human rights official Zeid Ra'ad al Hussein told a UN Security Council on Tuesday that the punitive measures had already compounded the humanitarian crisis in North Korea.

A top United Nations official-political chief Jeffrey Feltman-made a rare visit to North Korea last week amid the rising danger of war in a bid to defuse tensions and initiate talks, but to no avail. We'll see how it all turns out.

After Trump's historic announcement last Wednesday that the United States was recognizing Jerusalem as Israel's capital, White House officials said in background briefings that the move would be completed over a period of three to four years.

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