America's top diplomat stepped back Friday from his offer of unconditional talks with North Korea, telling world powers the nuclear-armed nation must earn the right to negotiate with the United States.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson's declaration before the UN Security Council marked a stunning reversal after he proposed discussions with Pyongyang without preconditions earlier this week. That overture was almost immediately rebutted by White House officials.
Still, Tillerson had planned to reiterate his call at a special UN ministerial meeting on North Korea at the council Friday morning. His prepared remarks suggested only that North Korea would have to undertake a sustained halt in its threatening behavior before talks could begin. But Tillerson changed the script.
"North Korea must earn its way back to the table," Tillerson told the foreign ministers. "The pressure campaign must and will continue until denuclearization is achieved. We will in the meantime keep our channels of communication open."