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03 October 2017, 08:56 | Marta Robbins
A man watches a television screen showing US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in South Korea
This is not the first time Trump and his secretary of state have publicly differed in their statements on North Korea.
Tillerson, speaking at a press conference in Beijing, said the U.S. made it clear through its direct channels to North Korea that it was seeking peace through talks.
Tillerson said during a trip to China on Saturday that the USA was probing North Korea to see whether it is interested in dialogue and that it had multiple direct channels of communication with Pyongyang.
Trump, who has lately been deriding North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un as "Rocket Man on a suicide mission" and has often spoken of futility of negotiations with Pyongyang, went on to tell Tillerson: "Save your energy Rex, we'll do what has to be done!"
"I think Tillerson understands that every intelligence agency we have says there's no amount of economic pressure you can put on North Korea to get them to stop this program because they view this as their survival", Corker said.
"The governments of South Korea and the United States are working closely together in maintaining channels of communication with North Korea", Cheong Wa Dae spokesman Park Soo-hyun said, adding that the allies are working on the shared goal of bringing Pyongyang to talks through sanctions and pressure.
Park also said that the U.S. has felt a need for "quiet communication" with the North to resolve humanitarian issues including the release of USA citizens held captive by Pyongyang.
The U.S. -North Korea talks, if held, would mark the first of their kind since the new U.S. leader took office in February and the first since October 2016.
Washington has no diplomatic ties with Kim's autocratic regime, and has been leaning on Beijing to rein in its neighbor's behavior through tougher sanctions.
Mr Tillerson was speaking during a trip to China - the North's biggest trading partner - to meet President President Xi Jinping and other officials.
In Washington, the State Department said that while such communications channels do exist North Korea has shown no interest in talking about giving up its nuclear weapons.
"I don't see this as an opening at this time", said Ruggiero, who spent more than 17 years in the US government as an expert in the use of targeted financial measures.
But Richard Haass, a former senior State Department official and now president of the Council on Foreign Relations, criticised Trump's stance, tweeting: "Diplomacy not a favour we dispense but a critical national security tool for ourselves".
"They're a little overheated right now".
In August, Mattis stressed the importance of the nation's diplomatic efforts, particularly through the United Nations, but in September he warned the U.S. would meet threats from North Korea with "a massive military response". But he insisted that it was up to the North to halt missile launches.
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