U.S. Department of State
Office of the Spokesperson
For Immediate Release
September 22, 2017
September 22, 2017
New York, New York
QUESTION: Joining us now is Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. Mr. Secretary, welcome. Great to have you here this morning.
SECRETARY TILLERSON: Pleased to be here.
QUESTION: Letâ€™s dive right into the news here, both on Russia and on North Korea. First of all, we have President Trump with the tough new sanctions, his tweet this morning, Kim Jong-un already saying that heâ€™s considering the strongest actions. And I want to break this down for people at home. Theyâ€™ve already tested a bomb more powerful than what we saw in World War II. Theyâ€™ve tested several intercontinental ballistic missiles. Overnight now, theyâ€™re talking about detonation of an H-bomb in the Pacific.
How are we going to stop North Korea from attaching a nuclear warhead, nuclear capability, to one of these missiles? They have done everything they said they were going to do already.
SECRETARY TILLERSON: Well, David, we are quite challenged, but our diplomatic efforts continue unabated. We have put in place the strongest economic sanctions ever to have been assembled against Kim Jong-un, so he is being tested with these sanctions. Voices from every corner of the world are calling on him to cease his program and come to the table and letâ€™s talk about the future of North Korea and the North Korean people.
QUESTION: But you heard the President say this week in front of the UN that if he has to defend the U.S. he will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea. He called him â€œRocket Man â€¦ on a suicide mission.â€ This morning he called him â€œa madman.â€ Is this kind of escalating rhetoric â€“ does it work?
SECRETARY TILLERSON: Well, the President obviously takes the responsibility of the security of the American people very seriously, and it is his first and foremost responsibility. But weâ€™re not in this alone; we have developed strong allies and strong alliances internationally, and we are engaging with North Koreaâ€™s most important supporters, economic supporters, their friends China and Russia, to have them also engage with Kim Jong-un on this issue.
QUESTION: But if we see this detonation of an H-bomb in the Pacific, what will the U.S. do?
SECRETARY TILLERSON: Well, we will continue our efforts in the diplomatic arena, but all of our military options, as the President has said, is on the table. And once we can assess the nature of this threat, the President will make a decision regarding the appropriate actions.
QUESTION: But for Americans watching this at home who want to know, â€œWill there be military action,â€ if they drop an H-bomb on the Pacific, if they somehow attached nuclear capability to one of these missiles, will the U.S. have to act?
SECRETARY TILLERSON: That will be the Presidentâ€™s decision, David. There will be assembled and there is assembled on a standing basis a National Security Council that meets on each of these issues to advise the President. Ultimately, it will be his decision.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, I want to turn to what we just saw in Brianâ€™s reporting. Facebook now acknowledging that they sold thousands of ads to Russian agents during the election, ads that attacked Hillary Clinton, that praised Donald Trump. How much does this concern you?
SECRETARY TILLERSON: Well, I think all of the social media providers are faced with many challenges. We see it not just in this arena of interfering with democratic processes, we see it in advancing the face of terrorism around the world. But they also have responsibilities, and I think theyâ€™re going to have to think carefully about their responsibilities in this regard.
QUESTION: Whatâ€™s the responsibility, though, of Russia? How tough are you going to be on Vladimir Putin? We know that you know Mr. Putin from your time as CEO of Exxon. He said in recent days, â€œWe awarded â€¦ Mr. Tillerson the Order of Friendship, but he seems to have fallen in â€¦ the wrong company and to be steering in the other direction.â€ What would you say to Vladimir Putin this morning?
SECRETARY TILLERSON: Well, Iâ€™ve said to Vladimir Putin Iâ€™m still the same man; Iâ€™m wearing a different hat now and I represent the American people. The President has asked me to engage with Russia, to lead the engagement with Russia. Obviously, the relationship is very strained today, but it is important that the two greatest nuclear powers in the world find a way, find areas of common interest that we can work together.
And we have found some areas of mutual interest. Weâ€™ve put in place a ceasefire in southern Syria thatâ€™s been holding since early July, saving countless numbers of civilian lives. Weâ€™re in the process and engaged in discussions around bringing peacekeepers into Ukraine to cease the violence in Ukraine. So I think we are trying to identify areas where we can work together, and we still have these very, very serious issues that youâ€™ve touched on yet to be resolved.
QUESTION: One political headline to ask you about this morning. Thereâ€™s a lot of chatter out there â€“ you donâ€™t need me to tell you this â€“ about Nikki Haley being a possible next secretary of state. Sheâ€™s even been asked about this. What do you say about those headlines?
SECRETARY TILLERSON: I think we have a Secretary of State currently, and I think heâ€™s planning to hang around.
QUESTION: Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, great to have you here this morning.
SECRETARY TILLERSON: Thank you, David.
QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. Secretary.