U.S. promises new North Korea plan after two decades of 'failure'

U.S. secretary of state Rex Tillerson has said it might be necessary to make pre-emptive military moves against North Korea if the threat from its weapons programme reaches a level "we believe requires action".

"As a practical matter I don't see the administration deciding to preemptively strike North Korea's capabilities", Asia expert and former White House official, Mike Green of Washington's Center for Strategic and International Studies said this week.

Later Friday morning, President Donald Trump denounced North Korea, tweeting, "North Korea is behaving very badly".

He said Washington does not want a military conflict, but if Pyongyang takes actions that threaten South Korean or USA forces it would be met with an "appropriate response".

He pointedly noted that 20 years of "diplomatic and other efforts" had failed to dissuade the isolated communist government from developing its nuclear program, which he called an "ever-escalating threat".

"I am here to express and reaffirm the ironclad alliance between the United States and the Republic of Korea which serves as a linchpin for security and stability on the Korean Peninsula", Tillerson said during the talks at Hwang's office in Seoul, the second leg of his three-nation trip that includes visits to Tokyo and Beijing.

While Tillerson's refusal to restart talks with North Korea maintains standard US policy on the matter, his suggestion that America consider military action against the rogue nation is risky break from status quo. North Korea, if provoked, could lash out against Japan and South Korea - potentially causing mass casualties in America's two closest allies in the region.

South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se told a joint news conference the missile system was only meant to defend against North Korea, not any other country.

US officials and Korea experts have long warned that pre-emptive military action against North Korea could incite a regional war.

"We will be having discussions with China as to further actions we believe they might consider taking that would be helpful to bringing North Korea to a different attitude about its future need for nuclear weapons", he said. Tillerson also visited Japan on his trip.

Any preemptive attack on North Korea carries huge risks.

Such ideas could gain traction, however, if North Korea proceeds with a threatened test of an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of hitting the United States.

China resents USA pressure to do more on North Korea and says it is doing all it can but will not take steps to threatened the livelihoods of the North Korean people. "China has long stated their policy that they too want a denuclearized North Korea".

Tillerson said there would be a "comprehensive examination" of how the State Department's programs are executed and how the department is structured.

North Korea has conducted two nuclear tests and a series of missile launches since the beginning of previous year.

"Although (South Korea) is in a hard transitional period of time, the secretary visited (Korea) as planned, and this is proof that South Korea and the USA go shoulder to shoulder 100 percent", he added.

Japan and South Korea both host tens of thousands of USA troops.

Regardless, South Korea and Japan do cooperate on many issues.

After Trump suggested during his campaign that he would be willing to talk to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, many speculated that talks would be forthcoming.

In recent comments, China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi implied the United States and North Korea were equally at fault and moving towards a "head-on collision".

  • Salvatore Jensen