(WASHINGTON) — U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson offered on Tuesday to begin direct talks with North Korea without preconditions, backing away from a key U.S. demand that Pyongyang must first accept that any negotiations would have to be about giving up its nuclear arsenal.

“Let’s just meet,” Tillerson said in a speech to Washington’s Atlantic Council think tank, presenting a new diplomatic overture amid heightened tensions over North Korea’s nuclear and missile advances and harsh rhetoric between the two sides.

The White House later issued an ambiguous statement that left unclear whether President Donald Trump — who has said in the past that Tillerson was wasting his time pursuing dialogue with North Korea — had given his approval for the speech

“The president’s

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