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The United States is in direct contact with North Korea, Tillerson says

The United States is in direct communication with the government of North Korea, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Saturday in Beijing. "We are probing, so stay tuned," Tillerson said in response to a question about possible negotiations with North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un. "We ask, 'Would you like to talk?' We have lines of communications to Pyongyang — we're not in a dark situation, a blackout," he continued. "We have a couple, three channels open to Pyongyang."

Tillerson clarified that this outreach has occurred "directly," not via Chinese mediation, and that the talks are in very early stages. Washington asks "'what do you want to talk about?' — because we haven't even got that far yet," he explained, cautioning against unrealistic expectations of a quick resolution: "This is going to be a process of engagement with North Korea" with many steps.

These comments, plus Tillerson's Saturday push for "calm" in "overheated" U.S.-North Korea relations, stand in contrast to President Trump's recent Twitter threat that Pyongyang might not "be around much longer."