U.S. Chief Diplomat Rules Out Diplomacy


Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s comments ruling out diplomatic engagement with North Korea and emphasizing military options are counterproductive to stopping North Korea’s nuclear advancement. 


Hazel Correa
202.546.0795 x2115

Washington, DC – 

Today, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson explicitly rejected negotiations with North Korea over its nuclear weapons program until Pyongyang agrees to denuclearize. At the same time, Secretary Tillerson emphasized military options against the North.

John Tierney, a former 18-year member of Congress and the executive director of the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation, commented:

“Secretary Tillerson claims current policy toward North Korea is ineffective and subsequently argues for the exact same policy: diplomacy, but only after North Korea denuclearizes. This approach has not worked and time is not on our side. North Korea continues to rapidly advance its nuclear and ballistic missile capabilities. Diplomacy without preconditions, coupled with enhanced and well-enforced sanctions, gives the United States its best chance to freeze North Korea’s nuclear activity and ultimately work toward a denuclearized Korean Peninsula.”

“While all options have continually been on the table, Secretary Tillerson’s emphasis of military action will have a counterproductive effect on Pyongyang. Saber rattling after discounting diplomacy will only encourage North Korea to expedite its nuclear and ballistic missile programs. History has shown that threatening military options works to embolden North Korea’s provocative behavior, not discourage it.”

 “Secretary Tillerson’s remarks indicate he is lacking the expertise needed to thoughtfully analyze the situation on the Korean Peninsula. Without his full team in place, Secretary Tillerson should heed the calls of numerous experts advocating for diplomacy with North Korea without preconditions.” 

Lt. Gen. Robert Gard, a 31-year veteran of the United States Army and a member of the Center’s National Advisory Board, said:

“Any military action against Pyongyang, including limited strikes against North Korean nuclear facilities, risks escalating an unstable situation into a full-scale regional conflict. Such a conflict would put our allies in South Korea and Japan, as well as U.S. military personnel stationed in the region, at high risk and heavy casualties.”

“Responsible diplomacy must come first. The two most promising diplomatic efforts with the North – the Agreed Framework of 1994 and the negotiations following the Agreement in Principle in 2005 – failed in part because of U.S. failures to live up to the commitments we made. Blindly faulting diplomacy for North Korea’s advancement is misguided and diminishes the only viable option on the table.”