Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Friday that "all options," including a preemptive strike, are on the table when it comes to dealing with North Korea—the clearest signal yet from the Trump administration that it would consider taking military action against the nation.
At a joint news conference with South Korea's Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se, Tillerson said the U.S.'s "strategic patience" approach was over and that it would not engage in talks with Pyongyang unless the hermit kingdom gives up its nuclear weapons.
"We're exploring a new range of diplomatic, security, and economic measures. All options are on the table," Tillerson said, adding that threats against the U.S. or South Korea "would be met with an appropriate response."
"If they elevate the threat of their weapons program to a level that we believe requires action, that option is on the table," he said.
Ruling out diplomatic talks will likely fuel fears that the U.S. is inching toward using military action, the Washington Post reported.
Yun also seemed to express support for that option, stating, "We have various policy methods available. If imposing diplomatic pressure is a building, military deterrence would be one of the pillars of this building. We plan to have all relevant nations work together more closely than in the past and make sure that North Korea, feeling pain for its wrongdoings, changes its strategy."
The "strategic patience" approach refers to the Obama administration's policy of using sanctions in the hopes that they would prove stifling enough to force North Korea to return to serious talks on denuclearization.
President Donald Trump took to Twitter on Friday to express his opinion on the matter, writing, "North Korea is behaving very badly. They have been 'playing' the United States for years. China has done little to help!"
The anti-nuclear weapons group Global Zero said Tillerson's "rejection of diplomacy and gesturing towards conflict with North Korea is both irresponsible and dangerous."
Tillerson's rejection of diplomacy & gesturing towards conflict w. NKorea is both irresponsible & dangerous. https://t.co/MrZ3XBnKg2— Global Zero (@globalzero) March 17, 2017