Secretary of State Rex Tillerson acknowledged Saturday that the US is maintaining direct channels of communications with North Korea even as tensions rise over its nuclear and missile programs, the AP reports. Tillerson said the US was probing North Korea's willingness to talk, and called for a calming of the situation on the Korean Peninsula, adding it was incumbent on the North to halt the missile launches. "We have lines of communication to Pyongyang. We're not in a dark situation," Tillerson said. "We have a couple ... three channels open to Pyongyang. We can talk to them, we do talk to them." No elaboration about those channels or the substance of any discussions came from Tillerson.
North Korea has in recent months tested long-range missiles, and on Sept. 3 conducted its largest nuclear test explosion to date. The standoff between it and the US has entered a new, more dangerous phase since then as Kim Jong Un and Trump have exchanged personal insults and threats of war. "I think the most immediate action that we need is to calm things down," Tillerson said. "They're a little overheated right now. And I think we need to calm them down first." He did not directly address the impact of Trump's own rhetoric. "Obviously it would help if North Korea would stop firing off missiles. That would calm things down a lot," Tillerson said. (Read more North Korea stories.)