EXCLUSIVE: Rex Tillerson is defying Trump by REFUSING to push tougher line on North Korea as his job hangs in the balance
- U.S. secretary of State told his German counterpart on Thursday that the U.S. wouldn't pressure him to cut off diplomatic ties with North Korea
- President Trump has been putting more heat on North Korea since Tuesday's launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile
- State Department's spokeswoman said Wednesday that the U.S. wanted its allies to recall its ambassadors and cut ties with Pyongyang
- Incoming U.S. ambassador to Germany seconded that idea after Berlin newspapers ran with the story
- But Tillerson defied the White House and took a softer approach with German?Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel
- Tillerson will reportedly soon be replaced by CIA director?Mike Pompeo
Rex Tillerson is defying President Donald Trump’s hard line on North Korea when he speaks to foreign countries, DailyMail.com has learned.
The secretary of State is reportedly weeks away from being fired and replaced by the director of the CIA, Mike Pompeo.
Now DailyMail.com can reveal that while speculation swirled about his future on Thursday, Tillerson contradicted the president’s position that he wants to see Kim Jong-Un’s embassies closed all around the world.?
Tillerson told his German counterpart that despite Trump's aggressive rhetoric, the U.S. would not pressure him to expel Pyongyang's diplomats and recall its own to Berlin.
Trump is threatening a new round of unspecified sanctions against North Korea following Tuesday's intercontinental ballistic missile launch.
But Tillerson's message, two State Department officials said Thursday, was that the U.S. would not insist Germany sever its ties with the rogue nation – and that it also won't make similar demands of other allies.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (right) told Germany's Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel (left) on Thursday that he could go soft on North Korea and stop short of cutting off diplomatic ties with he rogue nation, according to two State Department officials
President Donald Trump has been preaching a hard-line gospel against North Korea, meaning Tillerson's less strict approach might not go over well with his boss
Morth Korean despot Kim Jong-Un (center) roused Trump's ire this week by overseeing the test-launch of his nation's biggest, highest and fastest intercontinental ballistic missile
State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert told a roundtable of foreign journalists on Wednesday that the U.S. wanted nations with diplomats in Pyongyang – including Germany – 'to recall those ambassadors' in order to 'shrink the footprint' of Kim Jong-Un's government worldwide.
Richard Grenell, the diplomat Trump has tapped to be America's next ambassador in Berlin, tweeted his approval after German newspapers ran with the story.
'Heather Nauert is right,' Grenell wrote. 'North Korea is a serious threat & under UN sanctions. Germany should sever ties with DPRK. Diplomacy with muscle helps avoid military action.'
But leading American foreign service officers in Germany spent the 24 hours after Nauert spoke resisting, according to one agency source, and trying to generate high-ranking support for taking a softer approach.
Tillerson's reassurance to German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel appears to have been one result of that lobbying.
Following a meeting Thursday with Tillerson in Washington, Gabriel announced that his government would slim down its presence in North Korea and force the communist dictatorship to follow suit.
Gabriel didn't say how large the impact of his decision would be on North Korea's Berlin footprint, but it fell far short of severing diplomatic ties entirely.
State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert's told reporters from Germany and elsewhere on Wednesday that U.S. allies should recall their diplomats from Pyongyang and otherwise isolate the hermit kingdom
Richard Grenell, Trump's chosen ambassador to Germany, supported Nauert's position Thursday on Twitter
Tuesday's launch of a Hwasong-15 rocket triggered threats of retaliation by the White House in the form of new but unspecified sanctions
'We have already reduced our embassy staff in North Korea and will do so once more,' he told reporters, saying that two diplomats have been withdrawn and one more would follow.
'We have also told the North Koreans that they will have to reduce their embassy staff,' he added. 'We are thus increasing the diplomatic pressure.'
On Wednesday aboard Air Force One, White House deputy press secretary Raj Shah praised American allies for cutting 'economic ties and diplomatic ties.'
National Security Council spokesman Michael Anton told DailyMail.com on Thursday that the administration's position hasn't wavered.
'We have consistently said that we want all countries to downgrade and reduce their diplomatic ties with North Korea,' he said.
The prevailing posture inside the NSC is a more-is-better approach to isolating Pyongyang. Trump's national security staff would prefer to see Kim cut off completely, but will take what it can get.
Gabriel (left) ended his meeting with Tillerson by announcing an anemic measure – trimming the size of his embassy staff in Pyongyang and requiring North Korea to follow suit in Berlin
Nauert's office at the State Department did not respond to a request for comment about Tillerson's meeting with Gabriel.
But among Trump's loyalists at Foggy Bottom, the reaction was one of annoyed resignation.
One aide said Tillerson can no longer be counted on to 'put the pedal down' when the president issues a directive.
'Following the president's lead has been an ongoing issue at the State Department,' the second official said.
'Shutting down North Korean embassies throughout Europe and Africa should have been done months ago.'
White House press secretary Sarah Sanders hinted Thursday during a briefing that Tillerson's job is not in immediate danger.
'When the president loses confidence in someone, he won't be here,' she said.
'The secretary of state's a pretty tough guy. I think he'll be just fine carrying his job out,' Sanders added.
Trump and Tillerson have not seen eye-to-eye on some major issues including the fate of the Obama-era nuclear bargain with Iran and the ongoing confrontation with North Korea.
The top diplomat reportedly called Trump a 'moron' during a private conversation over the summer.
Asked Thursday by reporters if he wanted Tillerson to remain in the administration, Trump said only: 'He's here. Rex is here.'
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