U.S. ready for talks with North Korea 'without preconditions', says Rex Tillerson

Russia sends military delegation to North Korea

North Korea broke several months of silence in November with its highest-ever intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) test, which experts have said could reach the east coast of the U.S.

The largely sober event was leavened by laughter when a State Department employee asked the top U.S. diplomat if he enjoyed his job - indirectly raising the elephant in the room of alleged tension between Tillerson and the White House.

Relations between the United States and Russian Federation hit a low point amid U.S. allegations that the Kremlin ordered a campaign to interfere in the 2016 USA presidential election.

"He made clear that initial meeting (s) can begin without preconditions and without North Korea committing to denuclearization".

"Let's just meet", Tillerson said in a speech to Washington's Atlantic Council think tank, presenting a new diplomatic overture amid heightened tensions over North Korea's nuclear and missile advances and harsh rhetoric between the two sides. She had earlier said diplomatic tools were effectively "exhausted".

But appearing to soften the U.S. stance to talks, he said: "Let's just meet and let's talk about the weather if you want and talk about whether it's going to be a square table or a round table if that's what you're excited about".

North Korea's pursuit of nuclear weapons technology has led to heavy US-led sanctions against the regime.

While addressing the audience at the Reagan National Defense Forum in California, he said: "I think it's increasing every day, which means that we are in a race, really, we are in a race to be able to solve this problem", reported CNN. "We can only do our part of this", he said. And so we continue to indicate to them, we need a period of quiet.

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He said Washington and Seoul both maintain a firm stance that North Korea's nuclear weapons can not be tolerated and should be completely discarded in a peaceful way.

"We have a strong military presence standing behind us", Tillerson said of his diplomatic efforts.

This shift - removing the commitment to denuclearize as a precondition to talking - was also a practical idea, according to Tillerson. He spoke about coalition efforts that have carried over from the Obama administration, including work with coalition allies on stabilization, staunching the flow of foreign fighters, disrupting terror financing networks and countering extremist propaganda, among other things.

"It's a long road". "Does Tillerson speak for the administration?"

He, however, assured that President Trump is committed to complete denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula.

Trump has "been clear many, many times that two countries like the United States and Russian Federation can not afford not to have some kind of productive relationship", Tillerson told the town hall. "We all know why", he added, going on to list Russia's invasion of Ukraine and its election interference. "We're aligned on some days", he said, mentioning their shared goal of helping establish a unified Syria. "They have to reflect on what we said with their own leadership" and decide how to respond.

But he added that Ukraine remains "the single most hard issue that stands in the way" of the ability to re-establish a good relationship.

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