Jakarta Post

Please Update your browser

Your browser is out of date, and may not be compatible with our website. A list of the most popular web browsers can be found below.
Just click on the icons to get to the download page.

Jakarta Post
The Jakarta Post The Jakarta Post
Video Weather icon 26°C
DKI Jakarta, Indonesia
26°C Light Rain

Rain until tomorrow morning, starting again tomorrow afternoon.

  • Thu

    26℃ - 31℃

  • Fri

    26℃ - 32℃

  • Sat

    27℃ - 32℃

  • Sun

    26℃ - 30℃

Tillerson: Pre-emptive force an option with NKorea

  • Matthew Pennington

    Associated Press

Seoul, South Korea | Sat, March 18, 2017 | 08:54 am
Tillerson: Pre-emptive force an option with NKorea US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, center, meets with US and South Korea soldiers before the lunch meeting at the Camp Bonifas near the border village of Panmunjom, which has separated the two Koreas since the Korean War, in Paju, South Korea, on March 17. (AP/Lee Jin-man, Pool)

The United States signaled a tougher strategy toward North Korea on Friday that leaves open the possibility of pre-emptive military action and rejects talks with the communist nation until it gives up its weapons of mass destruction.

"Let me be very clear: the policy of strategic patience has ended," said Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. "We are exploring a new range of diplomatic, security and economic measures. All options are on the table."

Tillerson was speaking after visiting the heavily militarized border between the rival Koreas. His comments are likely to displease Beijing, where he travels this weekend. China has been advocating diplomacy to avoid a conflict on the divided peninsula.

Also Friday, President Donald Trump tweeted: "North Korea is behaving very badly. They have been 'playing' the United States for years. China has done little to help!"

Past US administrations have considered military options against North Korea and have publicly said that an attack on the US or its allies would prompt a devastating response.

Tillerson's comments were unusual, however, as he appeared to be implying, in public, that the US would consider military force as a way of preventing an attack by Pyongyang, and not just as a means of retaliation. It also comes amid a greater sense of urgency about the threat because of North Korea's rapid progress toward developing the means to strike the US with a nuclear-tipped missile. Risks of military action are high as North Korea could unleash a massive artillery barrage on Seoul in retaliation.

The Trump administration says it is conducting a review of North Korea policy. At a news conference in Seoul, alongside his South Korean counterpart Yun Byung-se, Tillerson said US was exploring the new range of diplomatic, security and economic measures and emphasized that Obama administration's policy of "strategic patience"— that saw tightening of sanctions to try and get North Korea back to negotiations aimed at denuclearization — had ended.

Asked about the possibility of using military force against North Korea, he said, "all of the options are on the table."

Tillerson said the US does not want a military conflict, "but obviously if North Korea takes actions that threaten South Korean forces or our own forces that 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."

Former members of the Clinton administration have said that the US considered a strike on a North Korean nuclear facility in 1994 when it appeared on the brink of producing weapons-grade fissile material and refused UN inspections. A diplomatic deal was struck to avert conflict.

Since then, North Korea has violated multiple UN Security Council resolutions and has been undeterred by tough international sanctions. The North conducted two nuclear test explosions and 24 ballistic missile tests last year. Last week, after the US and South Korea began annual military drills that the North views as rehearsal for invasion, it test-fired four missiles into seas off Japan.

Central to the US review is China and its role in any bid to persuade Pyongyang to change course. China remains North Korea's most powerful ally and dominant trading partner. China recently announced it was suspending coal imports that are an important source of revenue for North Korea for the rest of the year in adherence with UN sanctions.

Tillerson urged China and other countries to fully implement the sanctions. He criticized China's opposition to a US missile defense system being deployed in South Korea and accused it of waging "inappropriate and troubling" economic retaliation against the South. China sees the system as a threat to its own security although the US says it is only targeted against North Korea. Tillerson said China should focus on the North Korean threat that makes the deployment necessary.

Tillerson also rejected Beijing's proposal of halting the US-South Korean military drills in exchange for a nuclear freeze by North Korea. He said the allies had no intention to stand down the exercises that are defensive in nature and conducted transparently, unlike North Korean missile launches. He further sounded skeptical about the idea of negotiating a freeze that would leave the North with "significant capabilities" that could threaten the region and US forces.

The US retains nearly 30,000 troops in South Korea, and nearly 50,000 in neighboring Japan.

More broadly, Tillerson poured cold water on the idea of resuming negotiations with Pyongyang, saying, "20 years of talks with North Korea have brought us to where we are today."

"It's important that the leadership of North Korea realize that their current pathway of nuclear weapons and escalating threats will not lead to their objective of security and economic development. That pathway can only be achieved by denuclearizing, giving up their weapons of mass destruction, and only then will we be prepared to engage with them in talks," he said.

Six-nation aid-for-disarmament talks with North Korea, which were hosted by China, have in fact been stalled since 2009. The Obama administration refused to resume them unless the North re-committed to the goal of denuclearization, something it has shown little interest in doing.

Earlier Friday, Tillerson touched down by helicopter at Camp Bonifas, US-led UN base about 400 meters (438 yards) from the Demilitarized Zone, a Cold War vestige created after the Korean War ended in 1953. He then moved to the truce village of Panmunjom inside the DMZ, a cluster of blue huts where the Korean War armistice was signed. He is flying this week without the usual contingent of journalists who normally cover the secretary of state.

Tillerson is the latest in a parade of senior US officials to have their photos taken at the border. But it was the first trip by the new Trump administration's senior diplomat.

The DMZ, which is both a tourist trap and a potential flashpoint, is guarded on both sides with land mines, razor wire fence, tank traps and hundreds of thousands of combat-ready troops. More than a million mines are believed to be buried inside the DMZ. The Korean War ended with an armistice, not a peace treaty, which means the Korean Peninsula remains in a technical state of war.

____

Associated Press photographer Lee Jin-man at Camp Bonifas, South Korea, contributed to this report. (**)

Comments