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Mattis: Pentagon supports Tillerson’s diplomatic efforts with North Korea

U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis told a Senate panel on Tuesday that the Pentagon supports Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s efforts to enter a dialogue with North Korea over the country’s nuclear program.

Over the weekend, Tillerson disclosed that Washington and Pyongyang are in direct communication through multiple channels in the hopes of finding a diplomatic solution to the nuclear issue.

“The Defense Department supports fully Secretary Tillerson’s efforts to find a diplomatic solution but remains focused on defense of the United States and our allies,” Mattis said in written remarks to the Senate Armed Services Committee.

On Monday, White House spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the Trump administration would only speak with North Korea about freeing U.S. citizens who are detained there. “Beyond that, there will be no conversations with North Korea at this time.”

Sanders’ comments came after President Donald Trump tweeted over the weekend that he told Tillerson to stop wasting his time on diplomacy with Pyongyang.

“I told Rex Tillerson, our wonderful Secretary of State, that he is wasting his time trying to negotiate with Little Rocket Man,” Trump tweeted on Sunday, referring to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

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