US talking to North Korea ‘directly,’ Rex Tillerson says

The Trump administration confirmed Saturday for the first time that it is in direct communication with North Korea‘s government over its government’s escalating missile and nuclear programs.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, speaking off-camera with reporters during his trip to China’s capital, acknowledged that the administration is speaking to North Korea “directly, through our own channels.”

“We have lines of communication to Pyongyang. We’re not in a dark situation, a blackout,” he said from the residence of the U.S. ambassador in Beijing. “We can talk to them. We do talk to them.”

Tillerson said the Trump administration has “three channels” open with the regime of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

The top U.S. diplomat also said that broad sanctions against North Korea over its nuclear program “are beginning to have an effect.”

“We are seeing from what we can observe, and the Chinese are telling us, that it is having some effect, and [the Chinese] have a pretty close view of it,” Tillerson said. “But I also think it’s the uniform voice coming from the international community. There is almost no one aligning with North Korea on this nuclear program of theirs.”

The secretary of state described the situation with Pyongyang right now as “overheated” after back-and-forth barbs between President Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un. Tillerson blamed North Korea for the rising tensions, saying that if it would stop testing missiles, that “would calm down things a lot.”

Tillerson’s comments and his visit to Beijing come after North Korea’s foreign minister earlier this week accused the United States of declaring war.

The foreign minister was responding to Trump’s threat at the United Nations last week to “totally destroy” North Korea if the U.S. has to defend itself or its allies from the regime.

“Our country has every right to make countermeasures,” Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho said Monday. He said those measures could include “shoot[ing] down United…

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