Rex Tillerson has emerged from his time off, defying rumours of an early retirement. His recent statements made on the biggest issues of the day, mark a sharp contrast from the statements of the majority of American’s Congressmen and women as well as many voices from inside the Trump administration.
While Nikki Haley, the US Ambassador to the UN has disparaged the institution she is an ambassador to, saying that discussions on North Korea are ‘pointless’, Rex Tillerson offered a totally different perspective, one that is more rational and safer given that Haley’s remarks suggest military action is on the table. Tillerson’s remarks by contrast, unambiguously rule out military action.
Our full statement on the North Korean ICBM launch: pic.twitter.com/8tIaaTVkSF
— Nikki Haley (@nikkihaley) July 30, 2017
Tillerson said the following in respect of North Korea,
“We do not seek regime change, we do not seek a collapse of the regime, we do not seek an accelerated reunification of the peninsula, we do not seek an excuse to send our military north of the 38th Parallel.
We are not your enemy….but you are presenting an unacceptable threat to us … we hope that at some point (North Korea) will begin to understand that and we would like to sit and have a dialogue with them”.
— Department of State (@StateDept) August 2, 2017
Tillerson’s remarks would appear to bring US policy (as articulated exclusively by him) closer to the joint position of North Korea’s neighbours, China and Russia.
Both China and Russia have set out their terms for solving the issues in North Korea clearly. The points Russia and China have made at the United Nations among other places include
–a request that the US, Japan and South Korea cease military exercises in and around the Korean peninsula
–a request that the US cease future deliveries of the THAAD missile systems to South Korea
–a request that North Korea cease its missile tests
–a call for dialogue between all parties, including Pyongyang to reach a deal on de-escalation on the Korean peninsula
–a rejection of crippling sanctions on North Korea which would cause deprivation among civilians
Tillerson’s remarks are the first statements from any major US official which give any hope that the United States might seek to at least meet Russia and China halfway in requests which are not only reasonable but objectively good for the cause of peace.
Tillerson’s statement marks a departure not only from Nikki Haley’s arrogant and bellicose rhetoric but it also marks a departure from Donald Trump’s multiple Tweets which seek to paint North Korea as a Chinese issue, as though Pyongyang functions as a protectorate of China which it never has and most certainly does not do now.
China has repeatedly emphasised its discontent with Trump for seeking to ‘outsource’ the North Korea issue to China while somehow implicating China as responsible for the decisions taken by the sovereign state of North Korea, a state which due to its particular style of government is among the most sovereign minded countries in modern history.
Today, an editorial appeared in the China Daily which reaffirmed these sentiments. It stated,
“Pyongyang’s right to develop nuclear capabilities aside, its constant saber-rattling cannot but be taken as a dangerous threat to all, including China, which feels threatened by the damage Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons ambitions may inflict on its immediate neighbourhood.
For that reason, although US President Donald Trump has expressed frustration at what he considers Beijing’s failure to dissuade Pyongyang from its nuclear adventure, Beijing has every reason to feel unfairly burdened with a task that is obviously beyond it, especially as it has been working diligently to broker a peaceful resolution to the crisis.
Trump is wrong in his assumption that Beijing can single-handedly handle the matter. As Beijing has said, repeatedly, it does not have the kind of “control” over Pyongyang that the US president believes it does.
Nor will Beijing accept Trump’s allegation that it has done nothing. From Beijing’s perspective, it has significantly increased the pressure on Pyongyang by doing everything the strengthened UN sanctions regime requires of it.
The only thing that has proven to be true so far is no country can solve the DPRK problem by itself. The logical conclusion, therefore, is the stakeholders need to work more closely together in order to find a way to guarantee peace on the peninsula.
Unfortunately, Trump’s threat to link the issue to trade and mount pressure on China show these two stakeholders are moving further apart rather than coming together.
This lack of unity is a formula for failure and may, instead of a peaceful resolution, lead to a worst-case scenario”.
Tillerson’s words give hope that the United States may at long last respect China’s position which is one based on a realistic assessment of the situation and furthermore, one based on the realities of North Korea being a sovereign state.
Tillerson also talked a great deal of common sense on Russia, affirming for the first time that both he and Donald Trump are deeply unhappy with the sanctions against Russia that passed both Houses of the US Congress with super-majorities. Tillerson stated that the President will attempt to continue improving relations with Moscow in spite of the sanctions, even though it is difficult to see how this could be achieved in the near future.
It later was revealed that under Tillerson, the US State Department’s official mission statement has changed vis-a-vis the previous drafting of the statement during the Obama administration.
Previously the statement said that the US sought to promote,
“a peaceful, prosperous, just, and democratic world and foster[ing] conditions for stability and progress for the benefit of the American people and people everywhere”.
However, the current statement reads,
“We promote the security, prosperity, and interests of the American people globally…. (and will strive to)lead America’s foreign policy through global advocacy, action and assistance to shape a safer, more prosperous world”.
The shift away from promoting ‘democracy’ which is little more than a code-word for illegal regime change has caught the eye of regime-change fanatic and die-hard supporter of the fascist Kiev regime, notorious Russophobe Anne Applebaum
when you put an oil executive in charge of American diplomacy, this is what happens https://t.co/E6hv86NfkF
— Anne Applebaum (@anneapplebaum) August 1, 2017
All of this has the aggregate effect of making Rex Tillerson one of the few voices of sanity, reason, logic and pragmatism in the US State Department. By American standards, which are admittedly extremely low, one might even venture to say that Tillerson’s is a voice for peace.
The question now is, who is really in charge of American foreign policy? That is a question that six months into a Trump Presidency, still cannot be acutely answered.