Tillerson in London focuses on North Korea, Libya, Iran

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson visited London September 13 and 14 as international leaders ratcheted up pressure on North Korea and sought lasting peace in Libya.

Tillerson reaffirmed U.S. friendship with the United Kingdom, particularly around security and counterterrorism challenges, saying the “special relationship” between the U.S. and United Kingdom “is as special today as it has ever been.”

Rex Tillerson and Theresa May (State Dept.)
U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson meets with U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May at No. 10 Downing Street in London on September 14. (State Dept.)

Tillerson pledged to further strengthen the U.S.-U.K. relationship during meetings with his counterpart Boris Johnson and British Prime Minister Theresa May.

Common concerns

On September 11, the United Nations Security Council established additional sanctions against North Korea in response to its illegal September 3 nuclear test. The response shows an international community united against a nuclear-armed North Korea, Tillerson said.

“The U.K. has been quite helpful, quite forceful in their support for our efforts against North Korea’s development of its nuclear weapons,” Tillerson said September 13.

Tillerson shares President Trump’s view that the U.N. Security Council resolution was a small step. “We had hoped for a much stronger resolution from the Security Council,” Tillerson said, but he believes that the resolution accomplishes several things, including a complete prohibition on textile exports, which represent up to $800 million of revenue to the regime.

The resolution does send “a consistent message to the regime in North Korea, and importantly to those who continue to enable North Korea’s activities, that the international community does have a common view on the seriousness of North Korea’s proliferation program and the development of … nuclear weapons,” Tillerson said.

Tillerson also pledged U.S. support “to put Libya back together” in a speech to U.S. diplomats. He emphasized the need for the international community to help Libyans find Libyan solutions to restore a functional government.

On Iran, Burma

During a September 14 press conference with U.K. Foreign Minister Johnson, Tillerson addressed Iran’s adherence to a U.N.-backed nuclear deal. “In our view Iran is clearly in default of [the] expectations of the [Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action]. … So we have to consider the totality of Iran’s activities and not let our view be defined solely by the nuclear agreement,” he said.

Tillerson also spoke about recent violence in Burma, which has displaced hundreds of thousands of Rohingya people, a minority ethnic group. “I think it is a defining moment in many ways for this new emerging democracy,” Tillerson said.

“I think it is important that the global community speak out in support of what we all know the expectation is towards the treatment of people, regardless of their ethnicity,” he said. “This violence must stop; this persecution must stop.”