BONN, Germany — Secretary of State Rex Tillerson made his debut on the world stage Thursday, meeting the Russian foreign minister and urging Moscow to pull back in eastern Ukraine, then signing a joint statement condemning North Korea’s latest ballistic missile test.

Tillerson attended almost a dozen meetings with his diplomatic counterparts from the G-20 group of major world economies, all fairly routine for a secretary of state on an overseas trip.

But in one sense it was a landmark day for Tillerson, a former chief executive for Exxon with no previous experience in public office. For the first time since addressing employees on arriving at the State Department two weeks ago, he made a public statement about foreign policy, taking a firm line on Russia and Ukraine. That suggests that the stasis that has gripped the State Department in recent weeks may be ebbing.

The joint statement on North Korea, issued with South Korea and Japan, repeated the U.S. commitment to defend the two allies by providing “deterrence, backed by the full range of its nuclear and conventional defense capabilities.”

But the centerpiece of Tillerson’s visit was his one-hour meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, the first face-to-face meeting between top U.S. and Russian officials since President Trump was sworn in.

When it was over, Tillerson came out and read aloud a five-sentence statement.

He said they had discussed a “range of issues,” but the only one he mentioned specifically was the ongoing violence in eastern Ukraine. The conflict began when Russia annexed Crimea in 2014, then backed separatists in eastern Ukraine in what has become a grinding, unending war, despite a deal to end it, called the Minsk agreement.

In Brussels on Thursday, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis was saying Russia must “prove itself” before the United States agrees to any military cooperation.

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