Tillerson: Use of pre-emptive force an option with NKorea

"President Trump has the utmost confidence in the Secretary of State and looks forward to Mr. Tillerson implementing a bold agenda to revitalize American foreign policy", Anton said.

Two decades of diplomatic and other efforts, including USA aid for North Korea, had failed to achieve the goal of denuclearizing Pyongyang, said Tillerson, a former oil executive with no prior diplomatic experience, at the start of his first trip to Asia as secretary of state.

The escalating threat from North Korea's nuclear program shows a clear need for a "new approach", U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said on Thursday, although he did not say what the Trump administration planned.

Starting March 1, more than 320,000 military personnel from the United States and South Korea have been conducting the largest military exercise in recent memory. "If they elevate the threat of their weapons programme to a level that we believe require action, then, that option's on the table".

The U.S. retains almost 30,000 troops in South Korea, and almost 50,000 in neighboring Japan. The missile defense system is in the process of being deployed in the country's south.

In an rare interview with CNN Thursday, an official with China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the Chinese hoped the U.S. would not move forward with the new penalties. China sees the system as a threat to its own security although the US says it is only targeted against North Korea.

"North Korea is behaving very badly".

However, Tillerson said that option was not being considered right now.

China is perhaps the last country with significant leverage over North Korea, which has ignored several rounds of UN-backed sanctions targeting its banned weapons program.

The United States' top diplomat on Thursday reassured key Asian allies that Washington stands with them in the face of the accelerating missile threat from North Korea. Joel Wit of the U.S. -Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins University says he wouldn't read too much into this.

North Korea last week launched four ballistic missiles, the latest in a series, and is developing nuclear-tipped missiles that can reach the United States, in defiance of U.N. Security Council resolutions and sanctions.

The tour is Tillerson's first major foray into crisis diplomacy, after brief trips to Bonn and Mexico City, but he has not managed to leave Washington controversy behind him. Pyongyang views the drills as a rehearsal for invasion.

Tokyo chose to carry out the trial run in the face of repeated ballistic missile tests by the Pyongyang regime, which in 2016 alone launched more than 20 projectiles. More than a million mines are believed to be buried inside the DMZ.

China has also been infuriated by the deployment of the THAAD, or Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, missile defense system in South Korea, which it says will both harm China's own security and do nothing to ease tensions.

  • Leroy Wright