Mattis Backs Tillerson on North Korea Diplomatic Efforts

Trump Talks Down Tillerson's North Korea Outreach

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis vouched for Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s diplomatic efforts to defuse the North Korea crisis after President Donald Trump said Tillerson “is wasting his time.”

“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 testimony Tuesday at a hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee.

While the war in Afghanistan was the announced topic of the hearing, Mattis used his opening statement to voice solidarity with Tillerson. In Beijing on Saturday, Tillerson told reporters that the U.S. was talking to North Korea “directly, through our own channels.” Trump tweeted on Sunday that Tillerson “is wasting his time trying to negotiate with Little Rocket Man,” the label he’s given to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders told reporters Monday that “now is not the time to talk.” But she said diplomatic efforts to tighten sanctions on North Korea were still in order.

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