President Donald Trump’s latest tweets on North Korea received a muted response in South Korea, where media focused Monday more on U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s acknowledgement that the U.S. is keeping communication channels open with the North.
South Korea’s largest daily newspaper, Chosun Ilbo, warned in an editorial that any U.S.-North Korea talks should not recognize the North as a nuclear state, or the South would be forced to seek nuclear arms too.
Monday was also the start of a weeklong national holiday in South Korea, so many people were focused on traffic conditions for getting out of town.
Tillerson made headlines on Saturday when he said in Beijing that the Trump administration is probing North Korea’s willingness to talk, though his spokeswoman later said that North Korea has shown no interest in talks on denuclearization.
On Sunday, Trump tweeted that he had told Tillerson “he is wasting his time trying to negotiate with Little Rocket Man,” referring to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
The South Korean president’s office declined comment.
A small progressive online newspaper, Voice of People, said in an editorial that Trump’s comments are signs of confusion in U.S. policy toward North Korea, though it said the tweet is unlikely to cause a major change in Tillerson’s position. “Such unstable U.S. policy toward North Korea is entirely a burden on us,” the editorial read in part.
It’s not news that Trump and Tillerson have differing opinions on foreign policy, said Cheng Xiaohe, an associate professor at Renmin University’s School of International Studies.
“In my view, Trump hopes both North Korea and China hear what he said on Twitter,” he said. “His Twitter comments put greater pressure on North Korea, which is at a critical road crossing now, so it must make a choice. In the meantime, the U.S. hopes China will continue to put pressure on North Korea.”
Zhang Lifan, an independent commentator in China, said he believes Trump’s latest tweets show that the U.S. president is losing patience with North Korea. He said that China and the U.S. need to find a way to resolve the nuclear issue, because past experience shows that negotiations with the North are useless.
China’s foreign ministry did not respond to a faxed request for comment on Monday, a public holiday in China as well.