Newly appointed Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Friday, March 17, hinted at the Trump administration’s plans to possibly take militarized action against North Korea as the communist nation threatens to bolster its nuclear weapons program.
During his visit to Seoul, South Korea, this week, Tillerson said U.S. efforts to negotiate with North Korea to halt its nuclear and missiles program were off the table, a complete about–face from the Obama administration’s “policy of strategic patience.” The former energy executive warned that the U.S. might be forced to take preventative action if the “Hermit Kingdom” continued to ramp up threats of their nuclear weapons program.
“The policy of strategic patience has ended,” Tillerson said. “[Negotiations] can only be achieved by denuclearizing [and] giving up their weapons of mass destruction.
“Only then will we be prepared to engage them in talks.”
The ominous warning come just months after North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Un on New Year’s Day declared his nation was in the “final stage” of preparation to launch its very first intercontinental ballistic missile, which is capable of reaching the U.S., according to The New York Times.
On Friday, Tillerson alluded to a “number of steps” the U.S. could take to quell North Korea’s nuclear efforts and seemingly embraced enforcing sanctions much more harshly, cutting off Korea’s oil supply and strengthening the U.S. cyberweapons program against the communist nation, among other things, the newspaper reported. Discussions about possible military action against the country have consistently been pushed down the road — until now.
“Certainly, we do not want things to get to a military conflict … but obviously, if North Korea takes actions that threatens the South Korean forces or our own forces, then that would be met with an appropriate response,” the former Exxon Mobil chief executive said. “If they elevate the threat of their weapons program to a level that we believe requires action, that option is on the table.”
President Donald Trump backed Tillerson’s new hard-line approach to North Korea, denouncing the Asian nation in a tweet Friday morning.
“North Korea is behaving very badly,” Trump wrote. “They have been ‘playing’ the United States for years. China has done little to help!”
The U.S. has been trying to freeze North Korea’s nuclear development for the past 20 years to no avail, according to CNN. In recent years, the nation has launched a number of test missiles, sparking concern among the U.S and its allies who fear North Korea is planning another nuclear test in the near future.
Tillerson noted that the U.S. has provided nearly $1.3 billion in aid to the authoritarian regime since 1995, but “in return, North Korea has detonated nuclear weapons and dramatically increased its launches of ballistic missiles to threaten America and our allies.”
The Secretary of State is on a three-country tour in Asia to address heightened tensions on the Korean peninsula following two Jong-Un-directed missile launches last year. Tillerson is slated to conclude his tour in Beijing, China, on Saturday, March 18.