Secretary of State Rex Tillerson tells 60 Minutes that military action is possible if Syrian President Bashar al-Assad continues to use chlorine gas against his own people. "We are serious about our demands that chemical weapons not become regularized or normalized as a weapon in any conflict," Tillerson tells CBS News White House and Senior Foreign Affairs Correspondent Margaret Brennan for a 60 Minutes story to be broadcast Sunday, February 18 at 7:00 p.m., ET/PT.
In an excerpt of the 60 Minutes story that appears on CBS This Morning, Tillerson also talks about his dealings with Russian President Vladimir Putin and says that Russia has "special responsibilities, in our view, because of commitments they made to…destroy chemical weapons and ensure…they knew there were none" in Syria.
A transcript of the excerpt is below.
MARGARET BRENNAN: You've said you had a very close relationship with Vladimir Putin. You've done huge deals with him. Photos of you toasting him with champagne. And all that closeness raised eyebrows. It even inspired a Saturday Night Live skit. Did you ever see that skit?
SECRETARY TILLERSON: I did. My kids pointed me to it.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Did you laugh?
SECRETARY TILLERSON: Absolutely. Absolutely. I laughed out loud.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Since you're secretary of state now, you've accused him of violating nuclear arms control agreements, of cheating on North Korea sanctions, letting Assad continue now to use chlorine gas chemical weapons on civilians. He doesn't seem to be particularly concerned about the warnings you're giving him.
SECRETARY TILLERSON: Well, I don't know. We'll see if he's concerned or not. What our responsibility is I think is--
MARGARET BRENNAN: There were six chlorine gas attacks in the past 30 days.
SECRETARY TILLERSON: That's correct. And we have called them out for the fact that…Russia has special responsibilities, in our view, because of commitments they made…to destroy chemical weapons and ensure…they knew there were none.
MARGARET BRENNAN: That sounds a lot like the last administration. That doesn't sound very different.
SECRETARY TILLERSON: Well, when it comes to killing people with chemical weapons…it shouldn't look any different. I think the only difference is the consequences for it. And President Trump has already demonstrated there will be consequences.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Does that mean military action is still on the table--
SECRETARY TILLERSON: As it was--
MARGARET BRENNAN: --for chlorine gas attacks?
SECRETARY TILLERSON: As it was in April last year, we are serious about our demands that chemical weapons not become regularized or normalized as a weapon in any conflict.