U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has reaffirmed the U.S. is* working towards talks with North Korea.
He came to the defense of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Tuesday, explaining that President Trump and his top diplomat were on the same page and looking for a diplomatic solution.
"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 At the same time, the President, I think, has a responsibility to ensure that we go into this with our eyes wide open."
He added that President Trump had guided Tillerson and himself to pursue diplomatic efforts, including initiatives with China, and that Tillerson's trip to China last week showed that 'integrated effort'.
It was during this trip to Beijing that Tillerson made the comments that sparked this current controversy.
He said the U.S. was in direct communication with North Korea, the first admission of its kind for the Trump administration, but that so far Pyongyang had shown no interest in talks.
A day later, President Trump tweeted that Tillerson was "wasting his time trying to negotiate with the little Rocketman", the moniker Trump has given North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un.
He also pointed out that "being nice" hadn't work for 25 years during three administrations.
The White House also stressed on Monday that there had been no talks with Pyongyang over its nuclear program, but that the only conversations to have taken place are on bringing back American detainees.
It's not the first time the White House and State Department have made conflicting statements, and Mattis said that he "does not see the divergence as strongly as some have interpreted" but there does seem to be a divergence nonetheless.
Meanwhile, North Korea has condemned Washington's move last month to impose its own unilateral sanctions, on top of the recent UN ones.
In statement released on state media, Pyongyang called it a "heinous criminal act" and pledged to make the U.S. pay with its own "miserable extinction."
Kwon Jang-ho, Arirang News.