Trump Undercuts North Korea Diplomacy, Threatens War

Says Tillerson 'Wasting His Time' Trying to Talk

President Trump is so bellicose toward North Korea lately that the isolated nation, quite reasonably, isn’t totally clear if he’s declaring war or not. They even have made overtures to Republican groups to try to get them to translate Trump’s Tweets into actual, real American policy.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has been trying to keep the lines of communication with North Korea at least a little open. Over the weekend, visiting China, he told reporters that he was hoping for direct talks with North Korea.

But President Trump is still a thing, and even though he spent the weekend at a New Jersey golf course, he caught wind of Tillerson’s diplomatic overtures. Trump was quick to declare that Tillerson was “wasting his time trying to negotiate,” even though that’s literally the job of a Secretary of State.

Trump was finished there, either. Underscoring that he learned nothing from last week’s “declaration of war” fiasco, Trump followed the first comments up with a second Tweet saying “…Save your energy, Rex, we’ll do what has to be done!

There’s been no response from North Korea yet, but given last week’s talk of them not being around much longer led to concerns about war, the vow to “do what has to be done,” which Trump has repeatedly suggested is total destruction, is likely to fuel similar comments from North Korea, who could reasonably see these as overt threats of war.

But perhaps even more importantly, because the president can’t go more than a few days without overt threats of war, is what this portends for his relationship with Rex Tillerson. This is the latest in a long line of moves Trump has made to undercut diplomatic efforts by his own Secretary of State. That Tillerson is overseas trying to soothe tensions only to get spurned by a Tweet from a golf course is particularly embarrassing, and makes the Secretary of State appear totally powerless to effect any diplomacy at all.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is Senior Editor for He has 20 years of experience in foreign policy research and his work has appeared in The American Conservative, Responsible Statecraft, Forbes, Toronto Star, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Providence Journal, Washington Times, and the Detroit Free Press.