U.S. Secretary of State Tillerson says tougher sanctions and military strike among North Korea options
SEOUL — U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said that Washington wouldn’t engage in negotiations with North Korea and that a pre-emptive military strike and tougher sanctions were among the options on the table in dealing with Pyongyang.
Tillerson made his frank remarks in a visit to South Korea on Friday, a day after saying diplomatic efforts “have failed” to persuade North Korea to abandon its nuclear program.
Tillerson’s Asia tour began in Japan and will end in China. The top American diplomat is traveling without a press contingent.
“The policy of strategic patience has ended,” Tillerson said, according to The Korea Times, in an apparent reference to the Obama administration’s approach. “We are exploring a new range of diplomatic, security, economic measures. All options are on the table.”
He said any North Korean actions that threatened the South would be met with “an appropriate response”.
“If they elevate the threat of their weapons programme to a level that we believe requires action, that option is on the table,” Tillerson said when asked about military action.
Tillerson arrived at the heavily fortified border with North Korea, the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), on Friday. The US Secretary of State said that 20 years of diplomatic efforts in relation to North Korea had “come to nothing.”
Tillerson and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe agreed this week that their two countries should share strategic goals to deal with Pyongyang’s growing nuclear missile threat.
Pyongyang has continued to defy the international community, even after two rounds of UN-backed sanctions, and last week test-fired a salvo of missiles that fell in waters off Japan.
THAAD on the table
South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se voiced strong support for Tillerson’s call for more effective measures to pressure the Kim Jong Un government to dismantle its nuclear program.
“We will make North Korea feel the pain in its misguided administration, and change its calculation in the end,” said Yun.
South Korea, meanwhile, has agreed to deploy a US Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile system in South Korea.
US calls on China to do more
Tillerson urged China and other countries to fully implement U.N. sanctions on North Korea. Beijing’s enforcement of sanctions is critical as it is North Korea’s largest trading partner.
The U.S. secretary of state called on China to end the informal sanctions it has imposed on South Korea to protest the THAAD deployment.
China recently proposed the U.S. halt joint exercises in return for North Korea’s agreement to suspend further nuclear tests and ballistic missile launches.
Tillerson is expected to tell the Chinese leadership that the US intends to increase missile defenses in the region, despite China’s opposition, a US official told the news agency Reuters.