In NYT op-ed, Tillerson touts first year's accomplishments
Sec. of State Rex Tillerson. Photo: Sait Serkan Gurbuz / AP
In a New York Times op-ed published in Thursday's paper, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson touted the U.S. foreign policy initiatives he spearheaded during this first year. He pointed to the new caps on trade the U.N. and allies imposed on North Korea, the rebuilding of diplomatic ties in the Middle East and the country supporting the Ukrainian government amid aggression from pro-Russian separatists.
Why it matters: The country's top diplomat had a very bumpy year.
He and President Trump had clashed on a range of issues including the Iran nuclear deal, Qatar and North Korea. At one point, Trump tweeted: "I told Rex Tillerson, our wonderful Secretary of State, that he is wasting his time trying to negotiate with Little Rocket Man... Save your energy Rex, we'll do what has to be done!""
Their disagreements often fueled speculations that Tillerson's time maybe winding down.
Key points from his op-ed:
- Russia: "We have no illusions about the regime we are dealing with," Tillerson wrote, adding that U.S. "today has a poor relationship with a resurgent Russia that has invaded its neighbors Georgia and Ukraine in the last decade and undermined" last year's election. At the same time, he said the country is "on guard against Russian aggression" and that the U.S. recognized the need to work with Russia on issues like Syria, "where mutual interests intersect."
- North Korea: He tooted efforts made by U.S. allies and the U.N Security Council to impose trade sanctions against North Korea and severing diplomatic ties in hopes of having the isolated country abates its nuclear and ballistic missile programs.
- China: Tillerson urged China to add more pressure North Korea and that the U.S. will continue to pressure leaders in Beijing on trade imbalances, intellectual property theft and "troubling military activities in the South China Sea."
- Terrorism: He called on Pakistan to contribute more by combating terrorist groups on its own soil.
- Iran deal: It's "no longer the focal point of our policy toward Iran. Instead, the U.S. is "confronting the totality of Iranian threats" through rebuilding alliances and diplomatic ties in the Middle East, addressing flaws in the nuclear deal and punishing Iran for violating ballistic missile commitments, he added.