Tillerson says he had 'no conversation' with Mexico about who pays for border wall

George Stephanopoulos goes one-on-one with the Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.
15:28 | 04/09/17

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Transcript for Tillerson says he had 'no conversation' with Mexico about who pays for border wall
his airfield hit by the tomahawks is up and running. The region he gassed on Tuesday is being bombed again. My first question for secretary of state Rex tillerson in his first interview on "This week." I think our strategy in Syria. Our priority is first, the defeat of ISIS. Remove them from access to the call fa caliphate. Once we can eliminate the battle against ISIS, conclude it, it's going quite well. Then we hope to turn our attention to cease-fire agreements between the regime and opposition forces. In that regard, we're hopeful to work with Russia and use their influence to achieve areas of stabilization throughout Syria and create the conditions for a political process, through Geneva, in which we can engage all of the parties on a way forward. It is through that political process that we believe the Syrian people will ultimately be able to decide the fate of bashar Al Assad. Will that process require grater military force? You have seen senators McCain and others calling for taking out the safe zone. The situation in Syria, relative to the battlefield is quite complex. There are multiple engagements under way. We have the war to defeat ISIS in which many of those battle plans are being coordinated between U.S., its coalition agreements, Turkey, some of the Syrian opposition and others. And it is being coordinated somewhat with the Syrian regime and the Russian forces to put pressure on ISIS to eliminate them. Having said that, there are other battle areas still under way between the opposition and regime forces. It's foururther complicated that we have Al Qaeda forces there as well. That demands greater effort on the part of a large array of coalition parties, both regionally, as well as those that are directly engaged in the fight itself inside of Syria. I'm not suggesting this is going to be a simple way forward. But we do have, I think, a fairly good consensus building among a number of those parties who would be part of the process that this is the -- this is the best way forward. Russia doesn't seem to be part of that consensus. President Putin is calling what happened on Thursday a significant blow to the we lagsship with the United States. Well, I guess, I'm not too surprise that Russia will make that statement. I will tell you I'm disappointed. I think the real failure here has been Russia ps to live up to its commitments under the chemical weapons agreements entered into in 2013, both by the Syrian government and by Russia as the guarrantor. So the failure related to the recent strike, and the recent terrible chemical weapons attack in large measure is a failure on Russia's part to achieve its commitment to the international community. I want to get into Russia more in a second. A couple more questions first. Directly on Syria. You mentioned the people of Syria can then determine the fate of Assad. Are you worried at all that that was taken as a green light by Assad? I don't see how that could be the case. This is not the first chemical attack launched by Assad. There were two others the week of March 25th and 30th. And there have been chemical weapons attacks made by the regime in the past. This was just the latest in a series of violations. You accept that right now, the Syrian people have no way to remove Assad? We have seen what that likes like when you undertake a violent regime change in Libya. And the situation in Libya continues to be very chaotic. I would argue that the life of the Libyan people is not all that well off today. I think we have to learn the lessons of the past and learn the lessons of what wept wrong in Libya when you choose that pathway of regime claim. We know this is going be hard work. We believe it will lead to a durable and lasting civility inside Syria. Any time you have a slilt change at the top, it's very difficult to create the conditions for stability longer term. Sounds like from what you're saying, there is no real change in the United States military stance towards Syria from what it was last week. That's correct, George. This strike, think the president was very clear in his message to the American people, this strike was related solely to the most recent horrific use of chemical weapons against women, children, as the president said, small babies. The strike was -- a message to bashar Al Assad that your multiple violations, of the agreements of the chemical weapons charter in 2013, that those would not go without a response in the future. We're asking Russia to fulfill its commitment. We're calling on bashar Al Assad to cease the use of the weapons. Other than that, no change to our military position. We know according to U.S. Military officials there were anywhere from 12 to 100 Russians on that base when the chemical attack was launched. Does that suggest to you that the Russians knew or should have known what was going on? That they were come police si-- co complicit? I'm not seeing hard evidence. This strike was to target the air base from which these chemical weapons attacks were launched. And to take -- to recommender that air base, certainly its infrastructure no longer usable. Think the strike was well-planned, proportional, directly related to the chemical weapons attack. And no other parties were targeted. At a minimum, Russia hasn't done enough to get rid of the chemical stock pile because it's still there and the Russians are still on the base. Congressman Adam Schiff says you should give an you willty mate um. Will you do that? We have already issued very strong statements. Yes, that will be part of the discussions when I visit Moscow next week is to call upon foreign minister lavrov and the Russian government to fulfill the -- when it agreed to be the guarrantor of the elimination of the chemical weapons. Clearly, rushy has been incompetent. And perhaps, they have been outmaneuvered by the Syrians. Do you think is an opportunity, are you hoping this is an opportunity perhaps to drive a wedge between Assad and Putin? To drive Putin into a -- a commitment right now to do more to remove Assad? Well, George, I'm hopeful that we can have constructive talks with the Russian government. With foreign minister lavrov and have Russia be supportive of a process that will lead to a stable Syria. Clearly, they are bashar Al Assad's current ally. They should have the greatest influence of bashar Al Assad. They should have the influence on him to cause him to no longer use chemical weapon. I hope Russia is thinking seriously about its continued alignment with bashar Al Assad. Because every time one of these attacks occurs, it draws Russia closer to some form of responsibility. If we determine they are responsible? What will happen? That will be clearly damaging to u.s.-russian relations. I don't believe that the Russians want worsening relationships with the U.S. It's going take a lot of discussion and dialogue to better understand what is the relationship that Russia wishes to have with the U.S. One of the big issues is Russian interference in last year's election. That's the consensus view of all of our intelligence age sis. Is that on your agenda for the meeting with foreign minister lavrov? What can you say to them? What will be the consequences if Russia tries something like that again? We have had previous conversations when I met with the foreign minister of Russia in Bonn on the g-20. We'll continue to talk with them about how this undermines any hope of improving relations not just with the United States but it's pretty evident that they're taking similar tactics into electoral processes throughout Europe. They're undermining any pope for improved relations with many European countries as well. Russia needs to confront this themselves. And examine carefully as to how this is helping them achieve longer term objectives. And U.S. Sanctions will remain in place? There is no reason to be lifting sanctions. The reason the sanctions were put in place continue to exist. There's been no change of the status of the situation in Ukraine or crimea. And those sanctions will remain in place until those issues are addressed. What message do you think thort Korea should take from president trump's decision to strike Syria last week? Well, I think the message that any nation can take is if you violate international norms, violate international agreements, if you fail to live up to commitments, if you become a threat to others, at some point, a response is likely to be undertaken. And I think in terms of north Korea, we have been very clear that our objective is a denuclearized Korean peninsula. We have no objective to change the regime in North Korea. That is not our objective. The whole reasons underlying the development in North Korea are not credible. There's one report that the United States has drawn up plans perhaps to assassinate Kim Jong-un. That's not true? I'm aware of no such plans. In the president's meeting with the president of China, the president often complained that kind that is not doing enough to confront the north Korean nuclear program. Did he convince president XI to take on the issue? I can tell you president trump and president XI had very extensive discussions regarding the the serious situations in North Korea. They met quite some time, one on one, to discuss North Korea. There was a full range of options discussed between the two leaders. President XI expressed agreement that the situation has reached a new level of seriousness and threat. He expressed a view that he wanted to be supportive in terms of causing the regime in Pyongyang to change its view. China has expressed on multiple occasions and they reaffirmed it with us here in mar-a-lago that their policy is unchanged. Are you seeing the actions you need to see? Well, we'll wait and see, George. It's only be a couple of weeks since we announced our policy changes and have called on the government of China to take additional steps. We expect that they will. They have indicated that they will. And I think we need to allow them time to take actions and we'll continue to be in very close discussions with them. The conversations have been very open, George, and very candid. How much time do we have with North Korea? How close is Kim Jong-un to developing a weapon that could actually reach the united States? Well, the assessments are, obviously, somewhat difficult. But clearly, he's made significant advancement in delivery systems. That's what concerns us the most. The sophistication around their rocket launch programs, their sophistication around the type of fueling that they use, and they're working their way towards the test of an intercontinental ballistic missile. These are the kinds of progress that give us the greatest concerns. We have been quite clear with the regime that that wapts we want them to cease. So what we would hope was that with no further testing, their program doesn't progress. That's what we have asked for. Them to cease the testing before we can begin to think about having further talks with them. And that development of the intercontinental missile, that a red line for president trump, isn't it? If we judge they have perfected that type of delivery system, that becomes very serious. You met with the Mexican foreign minister at the state department this week. In that meet, did you make it clear that the United States expects Mexico to pay for the border wall? We had no conversation about that issue, George. We were -- we have had an -- I think very productive talks around actions that can be taken to slow and stem and discourage transmigration of people coming from Central America through Mexico and entering the united States. And, in fact, I know you have -- I'm sure you have seen the data that is coming out and the level of immigration -- illegal crossings from Mexico, whether it's a Mexican nationals or in plal corral American nationals, has dropped dramatically. I think Mexico is quite pleased. We have had discussions on how to work together to make continued progress. That's surprising to me. President trump spoke about the border wall so often during the campaign. Is it the policy of the united States that Mexico must pay for that wall? It's not part of the discussions between the foreign minister and myself. We're talking about how to organize a greater effort around transnational crime. And counternarcotics to stem the flow of narcotics that flow into the United States. And the flow of weapons from the United States into Mexico that supports the cartel. We're really focused on working at very high levels to address some of these problems and challenges that are really in the interest of both of our countries to make progress on. Mr. Secretary, thanks for your time. My pleasure. Let's get analysis from Tom

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