Tillerson: US in direct contact with the DPRK

A man watches a television screen showing US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in South Korea

Tillerson had on Saturday raised hopes for a possible dialogue with the reclusive regime, speaking of direct lines of communication with North Korea in a bid to "calm things down" after months of escalating rhetoric over Pyongyang's reckless nuclear and missile push.

He provided no elaboration about those channels or the substance of any discussions.

The official also said to the extent that diplomatic channels exist between Washington and Pyongyang, they are aimed at securing the return of Americans detained by North Korea.

Donald Trump, the President of the U.S., has told the man in charge of his country's negotiations with North Korea that they are "a waste of time" in his latest provocative tweet about the secretive state with potential nuclear weapons.

Trump, who has lately been deriding North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un as "Rocket Man on a suicide mission" and has often spoken of futility of negotiations with Pyongyang, went on to tell Tillerson: "Save your energy Rex, we'll do what has to be done!"

It came amid increasing diplomatic pressure on North Korea, after the country launched two intercontinental ballistic missiles, flew midrange missiles over Japan and conducted its sixth and largest nuclear test.

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Trump has vacillated between direct personal attacks on the North Korean leader and a willingness to negotiate.

About 28,500 US servicemembers are based in the South. They include the two nations' U.N. missions, regular exchanges between senior diplomats, and unofficial discussions between North Korean officials and former US officials. But we have to assume that Tillerson has gotten a lot of advice from the Chinese about toning down the rhetoric and looking for a diplomatic solution to the crisis. Others said the tweets might represent a "good cop-bad cop approach" to North Korea that may or may not be misguided or bear fruit.

But the Secretary appeared to walk back those comments later in the day, saying North Korea doesn't appear ready to talk or negotiate.

"The governments of South Korea and the U.S. are working closely together in maintaining channels of communication with North Korea", Cheong Wa Dae spokesman Park Soo-hyun said, adding that the allies are working on the shared goal of bringing Pyongyang to talks through sanctions and pressure. "We're moving to a place where we're going to end up with a binary choice soon", Corker told NBC's "Meet the Press" in an interview before Trump had tweeted.

"The first time I would have the opportunity to sit with the North Koreans it would be to say what do you want to talk about, because we haven't even got that far yet", Tillerson told reporters on Saturday in Beijing.

The disclosure came as Tillerson expressed hope for reducing tensions with North Korea, which is fast advancing toward its goal of developing a nuclear-tipped missile capable of hitting the US mainland.

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