Tillerson: 'All options are on the table' with North Korea

"The State Department says that an important part of Tillerson's agenda here will be to push Beijing to push North Korea to abandon its nuclear and missile programs. China has done little to help!"

He said any North Korean actions that threatened the South would be met with "an appropriate response".

Washington has been pressing Beijing to do more to stop North Korea's nuclear and missile programmes. A diplomatic deal was struck to avert conflict.

The opportunities for progress are there, if only US and North Korean officials are able to knuckle down and get to work.

Four more test blasts have followed, two of them previous year.

Largely rural Oga city has been Japan's frontline against North Korea's missile threats since 1993 when the communist neighbor began testing its 1,300 km (807 mile)-range Rodong missiles, developed from Scud missiles with Soviet technology. Pyongyang claims the drills are a rehearsal for invasion.

Two current and former officials said Tillerson is no stranger to cost cuts, having lived through waves of them at Exxon, and they suggested that he had convinced the White House to allow him to make numerous cuts himself.

Retired Lt. Gen. Robert Gard, who's now a member of the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation's national advisory board, said military options could mean taking out North Korea's ability to launch its own strikes.

Tillerson urged China and other countries to fully implement the sanctions.

Tillerson also urged China to refrain from retaliating against South Korea over the ongoing deployment of an advanced U.S. missile defense system on its soil, calling the move purely a self-defense measure. China sees the system as a threat to its own security although the USA says it is only targeted against North Korea. It was the first time Tillerson, a former oil executive with no prior diplomatic experience, had taken questions from the media since coming into office in early February.

Tillerson did not go to the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo to meet staff Thursday morning, as is often customary, but instead stayed in his hotel, where he read and received briefings from embassy officials, a spokesman said.

Yet it's possible that Tillerson wasn't bluffing about the possibility of military options, such as striking inside North Korea without an imminent attack or even seeking regime change.

Tillerson acknowledged this concern Friday, but said that China should instead focus its attention on "the threat that makes that necessary, that being the escalating threat from North Korea".

The U.S. retains almost 30,000 troops in South Korea, and almost 50,000 in neighbouring Japan.

In Beijing, he may raise the prospect of imposing "secondary sanctions" on Chinese banks and other firms doing business with North Korea in defiance of sanctions, a US official told Reuters in Washington, speaking on condition of anonymity. "That pathway can only be achieved by denuclearizing, giving up their weapons of mass destruction, and only then will we be prepared to engage with them in talks", he said.

USA officials have been spooked by North Korea's accelerating progress towards building an intercontinental ballistic missile that could threaten United States mainland cities.

  • Leroy Wright