White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders speaks during a briefing at the White House September 28, 2017 in Washington, DC.
The White House is sending mixed signals about negotiations with North Korea after US President Donald Trump’s comment, indicating that diplomacy with the Asian nuclear power is a waste of time.
“We’ve been clear that now is not the time to talk,” said White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders during a daily press briefing on Monday.
She made the comments after Trump tweeted Sunday that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is “wasting his time” by negotiating with North Korea.
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (L) walks by Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi before a meeting at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on September 30, 2017.
On Saturday, Tillerson had announced that Washington was maintaining direct diplomatic channels with the government in Pyongyang.
According to Sanders, the only conversations with Pyongyang so far have been about returning Americans detained in that country, such as Otto Warmbier (pictured below), who died shortly after his return from a 17-month imprisonment in North Korea in June.
“Those were the type of conversations that this administration was willing to have. Beyond that there will be no conversations with North Korea at this time,” Sanders said.
Tensions between Washington and Pyongyang escalated last month, when Trump said on the floor of the United Nations that he would destroy North Korea over its nuclear activities.
Asked whether the president endorses diplomacy in relations with North Korea, the White House press secretary asserted that, “We still strongly support putting diplomatic pressure on North Korea, which we’re continuing to do, but now is not the time simply to have conversations with North Korea.”
She further called on US allies to follow suit, warning that Washington maintains “all options” on the table.
Trump’s threats at the UN did not go down well with traditional US allies like the UK, France and Germany, which have all called for diplomatic solutions while supporting more economic sanctions.
“We’ve encouraged all of our allies and partners to do more and we’re going to continue to keep all options on the table when it comes to that,” she said.

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