Secretary of State Tillerson visited the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea Friday. Later, at a joint press conference in South Korea, he announced that the Trump administration was looking at new approaches to dealing with North Korea and said the policy of “strategic patience” was over.
“Efforts toward North Korea to achieve peaceful stability over the last two decades have failed to make us safer,” Tillerson said. He added, “Let me be very clear, the policy of strategic patience has ended. We’re exploring a new range of diplomatic, security and economic measures. All options are on the table.”
Later Tillerson repeated that all options were on the table and added, “Certainly we do not want for things to get to a military conflict. We’re quite clear in that in our communications. But obviously, if North Korea takes actions that threaten the South Korean forces or our own forces then that will be met with an appropriate response.” He continued, “If they elevate the threat of their weapons program to a level that we believe requires action, that option is on the table.” Tillerson emphasized there were “many, many steps” the U.S. could take before getting to the point of military action.
Tillerson also made clear that multi-party talks were not an option in the immediate future saying conditions would have to change first. Also today, President Trump tweeted out a statement about North Korea:
North Korea is behaving very badly. They have been "playing" the United States for years. China has done little to help!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 17, 2017
The Washington Post reports the tension in the region is very high right now:
U.S. administrations have long considered military action out of the question because North Korea has artillery targeting Seoul, metropolitan area of more than 20 million people just 30 miles south of the Demilitarized Zone that divides the two Koreas.
Now, however, military threats are beginning to feel like one of the few remaining options for dealing with North Korea, said Hahm Chai-bong, president of the Asan Institute for Policy Studies in Seoul.
“At this point, it’s almost the inevitable next step in the escalation. The only thing is that we’ve never been here before,” Hahm said. “The U.S. and South Korea have never put this much pressure on North Korea or responded in such a direct way before.”
Adding to the tension is the fact that China is upset with South Korea for installing a U.S. anti-missile system known as Terminal High Altitude Area Device (THAAD). CNBC reports the new system could be operational as soon as summer 2017.