Trump last year used bellicose rhetoric toward North Korea and threatened "fire and fury," ratcheting up tensions with the reclusive nuclear-armed country. At that time, Tillerson championed diplomacy, a path the president publicly derided. The confrontation centered on U.S. concerns over North Korea's nuclear arms and missile programs. A day after Tillerson said "lines of communications" remained with Pyongyang, Trump mocked him.
"I told Rex Tillerson, our wonderful Secretary of State, that he is wasting his time trying to negotiate with Little Rocket Man," Trump wrote on Twitter, using his nickname for North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. "Save your energy Rex, we'll do what has to be done!"
Trump this month made a complete reversal toward diplomacy. Just hours after Tillerson during a trip to Africa told reporters that any denuclearization negotiations with North Korea were likely "a long ways off," Trump agreed to meet with Kim in an unprecedented meeting of the leaders of the two countries. That decision left Tillerson looking completely out of touch with the White House.