Wednesday, 18 October, 2017

Tillerson: Military Action Is an Option if Provoked by North Korea

South Korean Presidential Blue House via Getty Images                      Former South Korean prime minister Park Geun Hye who was formally impeached on March 9 South Korean Presidential Blue House via Getty Images Former South Korean prime minister Park Geun Hye who was formally impeached on March 9
Saul Franklin | 20 March, 2017, 00:50

On Friday, Tillerson issued the Trump administration's starkest warning yet to North Korea, saying in Seoul that a military response would be "on the table" if Pyongyang took action to threaten South Korean and United States forces.

"We noted the efforts made in the last 20 years has not succeeded in curbing the threats posed by North Korea's illegal nuclear weapons programmes", Tillerson, on his first official visit to China, said after talks with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi.

"If they elevate the threat of their weapons programme to a level that we believe requires action, that option is on the table".

Prior to Tillerson speaking to the press about the meeting, President Donald Trump tweeted that China had done very little about North Korea.

Wang said China had made an "important contribution" to supporting U.S. engagement with Pyongyang but stressed it was, at its core, an issue between the United States and North Korea.

On Saturday Tillerson will head to China to press the North's key diplomatic protector and trade partner to back tougher sanctions - but Beijing has been infuriated by the deployment of a United States missile defence system to the South.

Tillerson is on his first trip to Asia as Trump's top diplomat, making stops in Japan, South Korea and China.

In his meeting with Tillerson today, Xi said the two sides should grasp the general direction for the development of China-US relations in an attitude responsible for history and future generations.

She said North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un is conducting increased missile tests and is suspected of ordering the assassination of his estranged half-brother at a Malaysian airport.

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Wang insisted the tensions on the peninsula were about the hostility between Pyangyong and Washington and said the issues should be resolved by talks.

Trump has been a frequent China critic, and the encounter could be crucial to setting the tone in the big-power relationship.

China and the United States must strengthen coordination of hot regional issues, respect each other's core interests and major concerns, and protect the broad stability of ties, he said.

The Chinese say the powerful radar in the Terminal High Altitude Area Defence (THAAD) system is a threat to Beijing's security.

Wang said he and Tillerson "both hope to find ways to restart the talks".

Wang Yi said United Nations resolutions on North Korea both mapped out sanctions and called for efforts to resume for a negotiated settlement.

"In return, North Korea has detonated nuclear weapons, and dramatically increased its launches of ballistic missiles to threaten America and our allies", he said.

Beijing is North Korea's only real ally and its main economic benefactor, accounting for 70% of the country's trade. The two also discussed the groundwork for a forthcoming summit between the two superpowers next month, where President Trump is expected to host President Xi at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida.

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