U.S. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis waits for the beginning of a hearing before Senate Armed Services Committee October 3, 2017 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. T Alex Wong/Getty Images/AFP
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U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis on Tuesday played down an apparent split between the U.S. president and his top diplomat over outreach to North Korea, saying America's focus was still on finding a diplomatic solution to the dispute with Pyongyang.Tillerson, during a trip to China on Saturday, said the United States had direct channels of communication with the North and was probing Pyongyang to see if it was interested in dialogue.Both Mattis and Marine General Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, broadly backed Tillerson's efforts as they testified at the hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee.Trump has vowed to halt North Korea's nuclear ambitions and tensions have escalated in recent months, with Pyongyang conducting its sixth and largest nuclear test on Sept. 3 .Dunford, the top U.S. military officer, strongly backed Tillerson's efforts to tighten an economic squeeze on North Korea. Mattis suggested that the Trump administration was exploring a host of ways to influence the North, including through diplomacy.
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