Advocates of peace and diplomacy were expressing relief Wednesday after Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the Trump administration is willing to hold direct talks, without preconditions, with North Korea.
"At long last, the administration has dropped the unattainable precondition that North Korea agree to denuclearize prior to negotiations," said Peace Action's executive director, Jon Rainwater. "This more realistic posture could be just what we need to deescalate tensions and jumpstart the diplomatic process. North Korea would be wise to accept this olive branch and agree to come to the negotiating table without delay."
In remarks delivered Tuesday at the Atlantic Council, a think tank in Washington, D.C., Tillerson conceded, "We're ready to talk anytime North Korea would like to talk. We are ready to have the first meeting without precondition."
Peace Action, which has joined other peace groups in pushing Tillerson to drop preconditions ahead of talks, pointed to the success of the Iran nuclear agreement, reached after painstaking negotiations between the Obama administration, Iran, and five other world powers. Trump has criticized the agreement as "one of the worst and most one-sided transactions the United States has ever entered into," and has repeatedly said that diplomacy won't work with the North Koreans.
"The successful Iran nuclear agreement was only possible because the U.S. and Iran were willing to come to the negotiating table without preconditions," stressed Rainwater. "The Iran agreement also couldn't have worked without a mutual effort to set aside past differences and work step by step to find common ground. The same could be said for any future nuclear agreement with North Korea."
Peace Action expressed hope that Trump would refrain from using more of the aggressive rhetoric he has routinely aimed at North Korea throughout the year. While tweeting that Tillerson was "wasting his time" pursuing potential negotiations with Kim's government, the president lodged insults and threats, some spontaneously and without prior discussion with his cabinet, at the North Korean leader.
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On Twitter, Win Without War noted that the Iran deal is popular with the American public and members of the Trump administration, adding to the hopes of peace advocates that the agreement could serve as a framework for a similar deal with North Korea.