Military action against North Korea an 'option', says Rex Tillerson

North Korea has conducted two nuclear tests and a series of missile launches since the beginning of a year ago. North Korea launched four ballistic missiles into the sea near Japan's northwest coast earlier in March. "Twenty years of talks with North Korea have brought us to where we are today", Tillerson said.

"So regardless of what Beijing wants", Klingner said, "we can influence the behavior of those Chinese entities that are engaging in economic activity with North Korea".

The policy of "strategic patience" had ended, he said, and the U.S. was exploring a new range of diplomatic, security and economic measures. At a news conference in Seoul, alongside his South Korean counterpart Yun Byung-se, Tillerson said U.S was exploring the new range of diplomatic, security and economic measures and emphasized that Obama administration's policy of "strategic patience"- that saw tightening of sanctions to try and get North Korea back to negotiations aimed at denuclearization - had ended.

"Our stance is that since the United States and its followers continue their nuclear threats and intimidation - in the form of their annual military drills - on the doorstep of DPRK (Democratic People's Republic of Korea), we will continue to strengthen our defense and preemptive strike capabilities", he said.

"As a close neighbor of the peninsula, China has even more reason than any other country to care about the situation", she told a briefing. "Tri-lateral co-operation allows our three nations to co-ordinate actions on major regional and global problems and more effectively counter the threats posed by North Korea".

Four more test blasts have followed, two of them past year. On Saturday Tillerson will head to Beijing to press it to do more. Beijing shares U.S. concerns over Pyongyang's attempts to build an arsenal of nuclear devices, but has been much more measured in its reaction to the ballistic missile program. They are expected to discuss Japan's plans to step up missile defense and possible deployment of the US -made Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile defense system.

The department had said that Tillerson would not take journalists with him as he was traveling on a small plane.

Speaking in Seoul after visiting the Demilitarized Zone dividing the Korean peninsula and some of the 28,500 USA troops stationed in South Korea, Tillerson said former President Barack Obama's policy of "strategic patience" towards Pyongyang's nuclear and missile programs was over.

U.S. officials have been spooked by North Korea's accelerating progress towards building an intercontinental ballistic missile that could threaten United States mainland cities. Park had been in lockstep with Washington's efforts to isolate North Korea. Daniel Pinkston, a lecturer at Seoul-based Troy University, warned that while the North had antiquated equipment, and could not sustain a conventional conflict for a long period, "they would fight to defend their country if it were under attack".

The US secretary of state has arrived in South Korea with the aim of finding a "new approach" for relations with North Korea after what he described as two decades of failed efforts to denuclearise the reclusive state.

Beijing has been irritated by suggestions it has not been doing enough, with the official People's Daily on Friday denouncing what it said was Washington and Seoul's "blind worship" of sanctions and pressure.

  • Leroy Wright