In what appears to be a president and his defense secretary not getting the same talking points memo, earlier today Secretary James Mattis seems to have contradicted President Trump with comments regarding the need for continued diplomatic talks with the leadership of North Korea.
Earlier this month, following North Korea’s repeated threats to strike the U.S. territory of Guam with a missile attack, Trump threatened to unleash “fire and fury” against North Korea if it endangered the United States. Then, taking to Twitter the day after North Korea launched a ballistic missile directly over U.S. ally Japan, Trump tweeted, “The U.S. has been talking to North Korea, and paying them extortion money, for 25 years. Talking is not the answer!”
“Defense Secretary James Mattis on Wednesday sought to downplay President Trump’s earlier assertion that seemed to rule out a diplomatic solution to North Korea’s ongoing missile tests.
“The U.S. has been talking to North Korea, and paying them extortion money, for 25 years. Talking is not the answer!” Trump tweeted Wednesday morning.
Mattis broke from that view, telling reporters asking about the tweet at the Pentagon, “We’re never out of diplomatic solutions.”
“We continue to work together, and the minister and I share responsibility to provide for the protection of our nation our populations and our interests, which is what we are here to discuss today,” Mattis said alongside South Korea Defense Minister Song Young-moo.
“And look for all the areas we can collaborate — there is already very strong collaboration, we always look for more, we are never complacent.”
The defense chiefs also declined to discuss the additional U.S. military support South Korea might need to increase pressure on North Korea.
Mattis’s comments on how to respond to North Korea echo those of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who said Sunday that the U.S. would continue its “peaceful pressure” campaign on Pyongyang.
“We continue to want the Kim [Jong Un] regime to understand there is a different path he can choose,” Tillerson told Chris Wallace on “Fox News Sunday.”
“There is a unified international voice echoing our message that no one wants to see a nuclearized Korean peninsula, so we’re all unified in our message to see a denuclearized Korean peninsula. We hope for the opportunity to engage with them as to how we might achieve that.”
Is this the equivalent of the coach sending in one play but the quarterback deciding to run another? That’s what much of the media would have us believe.
Or is it all another giant misdirection that has the media and the rest of the world looking one way while the ball gets thrown another? Neither would be a first for this president, and Mattis’ playbook could well be the only one in Washington with more gimmick plays in it than Trump’s.
For now, all the world can do it watch, wait and see whether there will be more talk or if Trump and Mattis decide to throw it long and get it over with.