U.S. is not seeking direct talks with North Korea over nuclear program

The U.S. is not seeking direct talks with North Korea regarding its nuclear program, a White House official tells CBS News. Instead, the U.S. policy aims to starve North Korea of resources to damage its ability to grow its nuclear program and convince the regime that it is in its best interest to abandon that program. The White House views this as the preferred diplomatic solution and plans to achieve it by pressuring other countries that have direct relations with North Korea.

Over the weekend, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson's acknowledgment that the U.S. has multiple open channels to North Korea was widely reported by media outlets as a new diplomatic outreach to Pyongyang. However, the State Department had previously acknowledged the multiple back channels with Pyongyang.

The president on Sunday morning countered those reports with a pair of Tweets, belittling Tillerson's remarks. 

"I told Rex Tillerson, our wonderful Secretary of State, that he is wasting his time trying to negotiate with Little Rocket Man...Save your energy Rex, we'll do what has to be done," he wrote.  

Then, later in the afternoon, the president tweeted again: "Being nice to Rocket Man hasn't worked in 25 years, why would it work now? Clinton, failed, Bush failed, and Obama failed," he tweeted. "I won't fail."

The Tweets were intended to course-correct Tillerson's message, which appeared to be offering a new outreach to Pyongyang rather than adhering to the agreed upon strategy, though it's not evident that Tillerson was necessarily doing that. The official said that Mr. Trump thought the reporting on Tillerson's remarks appeared to undercut the policy of economic pressure he had directed. This is also why the State Department released a statement late Saturday saying that North Korea had not shown any interest in negotiations.

  • Margaret Brennan

    Principally assigned to the State Department, Margaret Brennan also serves as a CBS News general assignment correspondent based in Washington, D.C.