Donald Trump Threatened North Korea After Completely Imaginary Negotiations

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October 3, 2017
Jeffrey Lewis

The following is an excerpt from Foreign Policy

Over the weekend, a story emerged that the United States was in some sort of talks with North Korea, followed in quick succession by a series of tweets from U.S. President Donald Trump rejecting any sort of diplomatic engagement with North Korea.

One small problem: There never were any such talks.

This particular episode in the months-long twitzkrieg between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and Donald Trump is a parable about how bad reporting can create its own facts, leading gullible readers to act out of false information or contrived narratives. And if one of those gullible readers happens to be the president of the United States, watch out.

This drama is playing out in three parts.

First, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was talking to a group of reporters while traveling in China. He was asked whether there were any indications North Korea might want to talk with the United States. This is what Tillerson said, according to the transcript:

SECRETARY TILLERSON: We are probing. So stay tuned.

QUESTION: How do we probe?

SECRETARY TILLERSON: We ask, “Would you like to talk?” 

MODERATOR: Abbie, take the last question. 

SECRETARY TILLERSON: We have lines of communications to Pyongyang. We’re not in a dark situation, a blackout. We have a couple, three channels open to Pyongyang. We can talk to them. We do talk to them. 

QUESTION: Through China?

SECRETARY TILLERSON: Directly, through our own channels.

Tillerson’s statement is utterly banal, along the lines of “the sky is blue.” If you know anything about U.S.-DPRK relations, you can name the “couple, three” channels by which the United States passes messages to North Korea. Those channels include Sweden, which provides consular responsibility for the United States in North Korea, and the so-called “New York Channel” through the North Korean mission to the United Nations in New York. One might also count the varied “Track II” dialogues between nongovernmental experts, which have also been used in this way. (I did one in London once with real live North Koreans, pins and all.)

Read the full article at Foreign Policy

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