US Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, has stated the possibility of using military force against North Korea if their weapons programs threaten South Korean and US forces. North Korea is developing long-range nuclear missiles, which Tillerson claims have reached “a rather dangerous level.”
Tillerson announced the tougher stance of the US against North Korea’s nuclear threat while he was in South Korea during his three-country tour of Asia. He clarified that though the US does not want to engage in military conflict, the weapons program threat would be “met with [an] appropriate response” if the threat reached a dangerous level. “If they elevate the threat of their weapons program to a level that we believe requires action, that option is on the table,” Tillerson stated regarding the use of military force by the US.
Tillerson further expressed that the US was hopeful that North Korea could be convinced to take the path towards denuclearization through other steps before US military action is required, such as imposing tougher sanctions.
However, despite the existing harsh international sanctions and several UN Security Council resolutions against North Korea, the rogue state has continued to accelerate the development of its weapons. Last year, North Korea defied UN resolutions by conducting two nuclear test explosions and 24 ballistic missile tests. According to the ABC, experts warn that North Korea could have a nuclear-tipped missile capable of reaching the US in a few years.
China plays a central role in persuading Pyongyang to change its course because it is North Korea’s most powerful ally. US President Donald Trump recently complained on Twitter that “China has done little to help” while North Korea has been “behaving badly.”
In defense of China, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi has claimed that China “devoted a lot of energy and effort over the years” to resolve the North Korean issue, and “the tremendous and important efforts that China has made are visible to all.”
During Tillerson’s time in Beijing, on the final leg of his Asia tour, Wang Yi reminded Tillerson that all parties should seek dialogue and diplomatic solutions with North Korea. “We hope that all parties, including our friends from the United States, could size up the situation in a cool-headed and comprehensive fashion and arrive at a wise decision,” Wang said.
Both Tillerson and Wang focused on soothing tensions between the two nations. Trump’s tweet was not mentioned, the dialogue was kept diplomatic through the use of milder language, and both parties emphasized mutual points of agreement.
Chinese President Xi Jinping is scheduled to have his first meeting with Trump in the US next month. Steps towards a solution in the Korean peninsula hangs on the US President and China’s President’s ability to build personal trust and come to terms on a number of disputes.