Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is in the midst of his first Asian tour, where he will speak with world leaders about the growing nuclear threat posed by North Korea.
“The United States calls on North Korea to abandon its nuclear and ballistic missile programs and to refrain from any further provocations,” said Tillerson this Thursday in Tokyo.
North Korea has responded to two decades of diplomacy by ramping up its nuclear tests, says Tillerson. The Secretary called for a “new approach” and told Fox News that nuclearization of the peninsula was not off the table.
In the past year, Pyongyang has tested two nuclear missiles and has completed over 20 ballistic missile tests. The rogue nation seems to have no concern for sanctions or for UN Security Council resolutions.
The Trump Administration is exploring all its options as it seeks to stop North Korea before it gest its hands on a nuclear-tipped missile capable of reaching the US. Kim Jong-un has already hinted that North Korea is working on such a missile, and experts say he could have one within a few years.
“Let me be very clear: the policy of strategic patience has ended,” said Tillerson as he spoke with South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se in Seoul.
Yun, who is unlikely to remain in his position much longer, implied that South Korea would be on board for military options against its northern neighbor. “If imposing diplomatic pressure is a building, military deterrence would be one of the pillars of this building,” he said. “We plan to have all relevant nations work together more closely than in the past and make sure that North Korea, feeling pain for its wrongdoings, changes its strategy.”
The US wants to avoid military conflict, said Tillerson, “but obviously if North Korea takes actions that threaten South Korean forces or our own forces, that would be met with (an) appropriate response.”
China, as North Korea’s most powerful ally, will play an important role in future negotiations. Tillerson, who will visit China on Saturday, has called Beijing’s response to North Korea “troubling” and “inappropriate.”
“North Korea has been behaving very badly,” agreed Trump via Twitter on Friday. “They have been ‘playing’ the United States for years. China has done little to help!”
Trump has been tough on China from the beginning, and Beijing is already frustrated with the US for working with South Korea to install a giant missile defense system. China has also asked the US and South Korea to stop conducting military training exercises east of the peninsula.