U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis on Tuesday played down an apparent split between the U.S. president and his top diplomat over outreach to North Korea. Rough Cut (no reporter narration).
ROUGH CUT (NO REPORTER NARRATION) U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis on Tuesday played down an apparent split between the U.S. president and his top diplomat over outreach to North Korea, saying America's focus was still on finding a diplomatic solution to the dispute with Pyongyang. President Donald Trump, who has traded insults and threats with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in recent weeks, said on Sunday Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was "wasting his time" trying to negotiate with North Korea over its nuclear weapons program. Tillerson, during a trip to China on Saturday, said the United States had direct channels of communication with the North and was probing Pyongyang to see if it was interested in dialogue. He 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 U.S. mainland. "I do not see the divergence as strongly as some ... have interpreted it," Mattis said. "President Trump's guidance to both Secretary Tillerson and me has been very clearly that we would ... pursue the diplomatic effort to include with the various initiatives with China," Mattis told a Senate hearing. "I believe that Secretary Tillerson is accurately stating that we are probing for opportunities to talk with the North. All we're doing is probing. We're not talking with them, consistent with the president's dismay about not talking with them before the time is right."