Secretary of State Rex Tillerson spoke on Friday at the United Nations Security Council in New York City, saying the United States cannot “idly stand by” as North Korea continues to threaten it and its allies with the nuclear weapons stockpile it possesses.
“With each successive detonation and missile test, North Korea pushes Northeast Asia and the world closer to instability and broader conflict,” Tillerson said. “The threat of a North Korean nuclear attack on Seoul, or Tokyo, is real.”
“And it is likely only a matter of time before North Korea develops the capability to strike the U.S. mainland,” Tillerson said.
“Indeed, the DPRK has repeatedly claimed it plans to conduct such a strike,” Tillerson said. “Given that rhetoric, the United States cannot idly stand by.”
“Nor can other members of this council who are within striking distance of North Korean missiles,” Tillerson said, noting that diplomatic efforts to stop North Korea’s nuclear weapons program for the past two decades “has failed.”
With a jab at the Obama administration’s foreign policy on North Korea, Tillerson repeated that “the policy of strategic patience is over.”
However, Tillerson said the United States was not looking for “regime change,” even if the communist regime in North Korea has never agreed to abandon its nuclear ambitions.
Tillerson laid out a four-prong approach to the increasingly dangerous North Korea situation.
First, Tillerson called on U.N. member states to enforce resolutions already in effect. He also called on countries to downplay diplomatic efforts because “North Korea exploits its diplomatic privileges to fund its illicit nuclear and missile technology programs.”
Tillerson said imposing “financial isolation” on North Korea was his third request.
“We must levy new sanctions on DPRK entities and individuals supporting its weapons and missile programs, and tighten those that are already in place,” Tillerson said, adding that, because China accounts for 90 percent of North Korea’s trade, it has the unique and important ability to influence North Korea on this front.
“The U.S. and China have held very productive exchanges on this issue, and we look forward to further actions that build on what China has already done,” Tillerson said.
Tillerson’s final recommendation was to reiterate that all options are on the table for dealing with North Korea, including “military action.”
Tillerson also spoke in his remarks about a “moral” responsibility that the global community must consider.
“Countries must know by now that helping the North Korean regime means enabling cruelty and suffering,” Tillerson said. “North Korea feeds billions of dollars into a nuclear program it does not need while its own people starve.”
“The regime’s pursuit of nuclear weapons does not serve its own national security or the well-being of a people trapped in tyranny,” Tillerson said.
Just this week, North Korea released a propaganda video simulating an attack on the United States that included images of the White House and the U.S. Capitol.
“The enemy to be destroyed is in our sights. … We will show you what a strong country that leads the world in nuclear and missile technology is capable of,” the video caption declares.
Since President Donald Trump took office, North Korea has launched six ballistic missiles, with the last attempt failing to launch.