Tillerson on North Korea: Military action is 'an option'

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Friday it may be necessary to take pre-emptive military action against North Korea if the threat from their weapons program reaches a level "that we believe requires action".

Tillerson's remarks come at a time when the United States intelligence community and the Defense Department are increasingly anticipating that North Korea will soon undertake a new round of testing of its missile and nuclear program, half a dozen USA officials have told CNN.

The Trump administration signaled a tough stance regarding North Korea at a White House dinner with a small group of journalists, including Scripps reporters, in late February.

Japan and South Korea both host tens of thousands of US troops. Senator Lindsey Graham, the Republican chairman of the Senate subcommittee responsible for those budgets, said last month the proposal would be "dead on arrival" in Congress. Tillerson said there would be a "comprehensive examination" of how the State Department's programs are executed and how the department is structured.

Tillerson, a former oil executive with no prior diplomatic experience, said any North Korean actions that threatened the South would be met with "an appropriate response".

"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.

In an rare interview with CNN Thursday, an official with China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the Chinese hoped the USA would not move forward with the new penalties. He said the US and Japan had an "unwavering bond". They are looking at "what are next steps we can take to really put pressure on the regime to make them feel and pay a price for their behavior", he said. The United States will also reduce spending by attracting funds from other countries and "other sources" to contribute to development aid and disaster assistance, Tillerson said.

He said it was time for a new policy on North Korea, but released no details.

Tillerson pointed out that two decades of diplomatic and other efforts made by the U.S. to bring North Korea to a point of denuclearisation have failed. China fears the system will peek into its own secretive country. "Part of the goal of my visit to the region is to exchange views on a new approach", Tillerson said.

Tillerson also met South Korean Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn, who is also acting president.

"We do not oppose South Korean taking necessary measures to protect its security, but these measures can not be based upon harming the security interests of South Korea's friendly neighbor, China", she said.

While the US and its allies in Seoul and Tokyo implore Beijing to press its economic leverage over North Korea, the Chinese have emphasized their desire to relaunch diplomatic talks.

It has urged North Korea to stop its nuclear and missile tests and said South Korea and the United States should stop joint military exercises and seek talks instead. Its radar, with a range of more than 2,000 km (1,250 miles), meant it could cover a large part of China, far outside the scope of the threat South Korea faces, Hua said.

  • Leroy Wright