Sat, Aug 12, 2017 - Page 7 News List

Tillerson overstepped on military response: Gorka

MISINTERPRETATION?The Trump aide later said that he was actually criticizing journalists who were ‘forcing’ the top US diplomat into making a case for armed action

AP, WASHINGTON

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson arrives at a military base in Subang, Malaysia, on Tuesday.

Photo: AP

A deputy assistant to US President Donald Trump has dismissed as “simply nonsensical” statements by US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson regarding a military response to North Korea, arguing that Tillerson was stepping beyond his role as the nation’s top diplomat.

The remarks by Trump aide Sebastian Gorka to the BBC came after media criticism that the Trump administration — the president, as well as Tillerson and US Secretary of Defense James Mattis — had offered mixed messages as tension rose over North Korea’s nuclear program.

While Trump on Tuesday warned North Korea not to threaten the US and spoke of meeting the North with “fire and fury like the world has never seen,” Tillerson on Wednesday played down those comments and said Trump “just wanted to be clear to the North Korean regime on the US’ unquestionable ability to defend itself.”

“I think Americans should sleep well at night, have no concerns about this particular rhetoric of the last few days,” he added.

In discussing Washington’s response to North Korea, Gorka on Thursday told the BBC: “You should listen to the president. The idea that Secretary Tillerson is going to discuss military matters is simply nonsensical.”

“It is the job of Secretary Mattis, the secretary of defense, to talk about the military options and he has done so unequivocally. Today he said woe betide anyone who militarily challenges the United States, and that is his portfolio, that is his mandate,” Gorka said. “Secretary Tillerson is the chief diplomat of the United States and it is his portfolio to handle those issues.”

Later, in an interview on Fox News, Gorka said he was misinterpreted.

“I said for reporters to force our chief diplomat, the amazing Rex Tillerson, to give details of military options is nonsensical,” he said.

Instead, Gorka said he was criticizing journalists “who are forcing our chief diplomat into a position where they are demanding he makes the military case for action when that is not the mandate of the secretary of state. That’s why we have a Department of Defense.”

At the US Department of State, spokeswoman Heather Nauert said she could not comment directly on Gorka’s remarks because she had not heard them herself.

Tillerson and Mattis have a good relationship, she said, adding that Tillerson had not spoken about US military capabilities.

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