Trump undercuts Tillerson’s efforts – Politico

President Donald Trump gestures as he walks to board Air Force One to travel to Huntsville, Ala., for a campaign rally for Senate candidate Luther Strange, Friday, Sept. 22, 2017, in Morristown, N.J. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

President Donald Trump said that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is “waisting his time” working with the North Koreans. Tillerson said yesterday that the U.S. has a established direct communication’s with Pyongyang. | Evan Vucci/AP Photo

President Donald Trump on Sunday seemed to undercut his own secretary of state, tweeting that Rex Tillerson’s efforts to negotiate with North Korea were essentially useless.

“I told Rex Tillerson, our wonderful Secretary of State, that he is wasting his time trying to negotiate with Little Rocket Man…,” Trump tweeted, adding, “…Save your energy Rex, we’ll do what has to be done!”

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The president’s remarks were rather startling, given the sensitive nature of international diplomacy.

Speaking in China, Tillerson said Saturday that the United States was in direct communication with North Korea in an effort to reduce tensions between the two longtime foes.

“The whole situation is a bit overheated right now,” said Tillerson, according to media reports. “If North Korea would stop firing its missiles, that would calm things down a lot.”

Trump’s tweet drew some startled reactions in the diplomatic field.

“Diplomacy not a favor we dispense but a critical national security tool for ourselves,” tweeted Richard N. Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations. “Potus truly misguided here-& SecState should resign.”

Carl Bildt, co-chair of the European Council on Foreign Relations, tweeted: “President Trump spectacularly shot down SecState Tillerson after important Beijing talks. How long can this last?”

With North Korea, however, such a strategy may not work. The regime in Pyongyang has long cast the U.S. as a major threat that justifies its nuclear ambitions, and Trump’s rhetoric may merely underscore that threat. It’s possible that even if Kim Jong Un wants to resolve the current crisis diplomatically, he may feel compelled to respond to the harshest voices on the Trump team, ruling out talks and pursuing a bigger nuclear arsenal.

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