Transcript: NPR Interviews Secretary Of State Rex Tillerson


Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in the George C. Marshall room at the State Department on Thursday.

Ariel Zambelich/NPR

In his first interview with NPR, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has a wide-ranging interview with Morning Edition’s Steve Inskeep.

Steve Inskeep: I want to begin with North Korea. We heard when you said, “the era of strategic patience is over,” so we know what your policy is not. Is there a word or phrase you can give us to say what your approach to North Korea is?

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson: Yes, our approach to North Korea is to have them change their posture towards any future talks.

And I think when we say the era of strategic patience is over — in the past I think we have always negotiated our way to the negotiating table. Now when they act up, we would negotiate our way to get them to come to the table, and then decide what we’re going to give them to have them behave. We don’t have the running room left to do that now, given how far advanced their program has become. So this is an approach that is to put pressure on them through implementation of all the sanctions, as well as other diplomatic pressures, and calling on others to cause them to change their view of what will really allow them to achieve the security that they say they seek.

Do you intend to direct talks with North Korea? Is that your goal?

Obviously, that would be the way we would like to solve this. But North Korea has to decide they’re ready to talk to us about the right agenda — and the right agenda is not simply stopping where they are for a few more months or a few more years and then resuming things. That’s been the agenda for the last 20 years.

Well help me understand what success is from your point of view. What does the goal have to be?

Well our goal is the same as that of China, which is a denuclearized Korean peninsula.

No nuclear weapons for North Korea?

A denuclearized Korean Peninsula. It’s very clear: That’s China’s stated policy, it has been our stated policy, it’s been the stated policy of our allies in the region. And I would quickly add, you know, we did our part — we took our nuclear weapons out of the Korean Peninsula. It’s time for North Korea to take their weapons out as well.

Is that a realistic goal?

It is our goal. It is our only goal.

And would you go so far as to say that is an absolute goal? I’m thinking of the way that President Obama during the nuclear negotiations with Iran said Iran will not have a nuclear weapon, period. Are you prepared to say: North Korea will not end this process with nuclear weapons, period?

We must have a denuclearized Korean Peninsula. That is our goal, pure and simple.

Nothing less?

Nothing less.

Regardless of the methods?

I’m not sure what you mean when you say regardless of the methods…



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