US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson visits Korean DMZ

Military action by the United States against nuclear-armed North Korea is an "option on the table" if the threat from the rogue regime escalates, Washington's top diplomat Rex Tillerson said yesterday.

The negotiations, stalled since 2009, were aimed at curbing North Korea's nuclear weapons program and were hosted by China and included South Korea, the United States, Russia and Japan. But former US Treasury Department Assistant Secretary for Terrorist Financing Daniel Glaser told the New York Times that it would be hard to implement, noting that China's large banks typically avoid dealing with North Korea while its smaller ones have "little exposure" to the US banking system. Trump said in a message on Twitter.

In a news conference on Wednesday, China's Premier Li Keqiang said "there are bright prospects for China-US cooperation".

Earlier Friday Russian state news agency RIA Novosti cited a source in the Russian foreign ministry as saying "we see no alternative to political and diplomatic resolution" on North Korea.

"Let me be clear: The policy of strategic patience has ended", Tillerson said at a press conference with the South Korean foreign minister in Seoul today.

The launch came as the US and South Korea began their annual military drills, which the North believes are preparations for war.

"Certainly, we do not want for things to get to a military conflict", he said when asked about possible military action, but added: "If they elevate the threat of their weapons program to a level that we believe requires action, that option is on the table".

Last week, North Korea launched four missiles into seas off Japan, in an apparent reaction to major annual military drills the now conducting with South Korea.

Tillerson called on China to refrain from retaliating against South Korea over Thaad, saying that it is "inappropriate" and "troubling".

It also comes amid a greater sense of urgency about the threat because of North Korea's rapid progress toward developing the means to strike the USA with a nuclear-tipped missile.

Meanwhile, Beijing fears that the U.S. Terminal High Altitude Area Defense missile system being deployed in South Korea could undermine China's nuclear deterrent.

He also appeared to reject the idea of a negotiated freeze in the current North Korean weapons program.

Past US administrations have considered military force because of North Korea's development of nuclear weapons, but the option has rarely been expressed so explicitly.

North Korea has conducted two nuclear tests and a series of missile launches since the beginning of previous year. The Trump administration has stressed that "all options are on the table", including the use of force and putting the country back on the list of state sponsors of terrorism.

State Department spokesman Mark Toner told reporters this week that efforts to convince China to pressure North Korea were the "looming challenge" in trans-Pacific relations. "Instead, we urge China to address the threat that makes that necessary", he said.

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

Former members of the Clinton administration have said that the US considered a strike on a North Korean nuclear facility in 1994 when it appeared on the brink of producing weapons-grade fissile material and refused United Nations inspections. It really is a reflection of the significance you, Secretary Tillerson, put on the Japan-U.S. alliance and I very much appreciate it.

"There has been a narrative in the West suggesting that China holds the key to the North Korea nuclear issue".

  • Leroy Wright