US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson welcomed Gabriel to the State Department as Washington is turning up the pressure on its allies to do more to isolate Kim Jong-Un’s defiant nuclear-armed regime.
“We have already reduced our embassy staff in North Korea and will do so once more,” Gabriel told reporters afterwards, adding that two diplomats have been withdrawn and one more will follow.
More Germans may leave the embassy, but this will be carried out in consultation with Germany’s European allies, some of whom also have missions in the North.
“We have also told the North Koreans that they will have to reduce their embassy staff,” he said, adding: “We are thus increasing the diplomatic pressure.”
The Tillerson-Gabriel meeting came after President Donald Trump complained that China has failed to persuade Kim to halt his nuclear and ballistic missile program and as Washington calls for a fuel embargo.
On Wednesday, before the ministers met, Tillerson’s spokeswoman Heather Nauert had told reporters that Washington would like its allies to go as far as to recall their ambassadors — a step Germany has yet to take.
“So we would continue to ask Germany or other countries around the world to recall those ambassadors, shrink the footprint of the size of entity that North Korea has in any given country,” she said.
“So that’s a campaign. We continue to have those conversations with many nations.”
But on Thursday, after the talks, Nauert said that Tillerson had not “specifically” asked Gabriel to withdraw the German ambassador from North Korea.