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Tillerson Cuts Africa Trip Short Due to North Korea Meeting

Tillerson and Mattis in South Korea
Tillerson and Mattis in South Korea

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is ending his first diplomatic trip early and flying back to Washington Monday because of new developments in the administration's approach to North Korea.

While in Africa, Tillerson met with leaders in Chad. He was also scheduled to travel to Nigeria, where he would meet with the country's president, foreign minister and representatives from the US Embassy there.

"Due to demands in the secretary's schedule, he is returning to the US one day early after concluding official meetings in Chad and Nigeria," Under Secretary of State Steve Goldstein said.

The news comes as President Donald Trump announced he would be accepting a meeting with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un.

If the meeting occurs, Trump would become the first sitting US president to ever meet with a North Korean leader.

But the White House says the North has to take "concrete" steps on denuclearization in order to ensure the meeting takes place.

Defense Secretary on North Korea Meeting

Meanwhile, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis left Washington for a six-day trip that begins with stops in Oman and Bahrain, where Mattis said his priority is to cement US military relationships with the two Persian Gulf nations.

While on the plane, Mattis said he's planning to stay in his lane and not discuss the diplomatic efforts to convince North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons. 

President Trump's surprise decision to agree to a meeting with Kim, he says, is validation of what he has been saying for months: Diplomacy, not military force, is the best way to resolve the crisis. 

"For those who questioned me about whether it was really diplomatically led, I now rest my case with Exhibit A, so I do not want to talk about Korea at all," he told reporters. 

Mattis added, "When you get into a position like this, the potential for misunderstanding remains very high or goes higher, so I want those who are actually engaging in the discussions to be actually the ones who answer all media questions."

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