Mattis plays down Trump-Tillerson split on N. Korea

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WASHINGTON: United States Defence Secretary Jim Mattis yesterday played down an apparent split between the president and his top diplomat over outreach to North Korea, saying America's focus was still on finding a diplomatic solution to the dispute with Pyongyang.

President Donald Trump, who has traded insults and threats with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in recent weeks, said on Monday that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was "wasting his time" trying to negotiate with the North over its nuclear weapons programme.

"I do not see the divergence as strongly as some... have interpreted it," Mr Mattis said. "President Trump's guidance to both Secretary Tillerson and me has been very clearly that we would... pursue the diplomatic effort.

"All we're doing is probing... consistent with the president's dismay about not talking with them before the time is right."- REUTERS

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