Policy of "strategic patience" with North Korea over - Tillerson

"Let me be very clear: the policy of strategic patience has ended", said Tillerson in a later press availability in Seoul with South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se.

USA military action against nuclear-armed North Korea is an "option on the table", Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Friday after warning the policy of strategic patience with Pyongyang was over.

Tillerson, a former oil executive with no prior diplomatic experience, will travel to South Korea and China later in the week.

In his first major foray into crisis diplomacy, the new USA envoy is looking to reassure key Asian allies that Washington stands with them in the face of the accelerating nuclear and missile threats from North Korea.

He warned that past policies and punishments have had virtually no effect on Pyongyang's ambitions and that a new course was needed.

South Korea and the United States share the goal of the complete denuclearisation of North Korea, South Korean Foreign Minster Yun Byung-se told a joint news conference with the visiting US secretary of state.

At a brief news conference in Tokyo on Thursday, Tillerson said the current level of spending - more than $50 billion - was "simply not sustainable".

Earlier, he landed at Osan air base in South Korea from Japan and transferred to a Blackhawk helicopter for his trip to the DMZ, where he met the commander of the 28,000 United States troops stationed in the South to defend the country. "They deny evidence of North Korea wrongdoing, they insist on loopholes, they insist on watering down what would otherwise be more effective resolutions" at the United Nations, Klingner said. This marked his first trip of this kind since taking office as top diplomat under the Donald Trump administration.

But since his victory he has twice met with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and has been careful to offer complete support, as Tillerson reiterated. "With this in mind, the United States calls on North Korea to abandon its nuclear and ballistic missile programs and refrain from any further provocations".

Tillerson met with some of the more than 20,000 USA troops that guard the border.

Tillerson came amid mounting anxiety over additional provocations by the North and deepening friction between South Korea and China over the deployment of a USA missile defense system called the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD).

After Tokyo, Tillerson will fly to Seoul for talks with South Korea's acting leader, and at the weekend he heads to Beijing amid reports he will seek to finalise plans for Chinese leader Xi Jinping to visit Trump in April. China sees the system as a threat to its own security although the US says it is only targeted against North Korea.

"We're exchanging views", Tillerson said, while standing a few feet within what is technically North Korean territory inside what is known as the Joint Security Area.

"We know that other nations can take actions".

Past U.S. administrations have considered military force because North Korea's development of nuclear weapons and ballistic missile to deliver them, but rarely has that option been expressed so explicitly.

North Korea's recent missile tests have raised concerns over that the country plans.

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But Tillerson said he is ready to accept the cuts.

  • Leroy Wright