UNITED NATIONS — Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson said on Friday that the United States was keeping “all options” on the table if diplomacy failed to persuade North Korea to halt its nuclear weapons program.
Speaking at the United Nations Security Council, Mr. Tillerson called for stiffer international sanctions against North Korea, threatened to impose sanctions on third parties that continued to cooperate with the country, and demanded that the North halt its nuclear weapons program before talks could begin.
“The more we bide our time, the sooner we will run out of it,” he said. “All options for reacting to future provocations must remain on the table.”
China has insisted on what it calls a parallel approach, calling on the United States to stop its military buildup on the Korean Peninsula in exchange for North Korea’s suspension of missile tests. North Korea is already under a raft of stiff sanctions from the Security Council and has been found to repeatedly violate them.
Mr. Tillerson’s speech was his first before the United Nations and represented stepped-up attention by the Trump administration to the decades-long growth of the North Korean nuclear and ballistic missile threat.
Before the Security Council meeting, China’s foreign affairs minister, Wang Yi, repeated his country’s proposal that North Korea should suspend its ballistic missile and nuclear programs in return for the United States and South Korea suspending military cooperation. The United States has so far rejected China’s plan, and North Korea has yet to accept it, either.
The meeting took place a day after President Trump told Reuters in an Oval Office interview, “There is a chance that we could end up having a major, major conflict with North Korea. Absolutely.”
But in the interview, Mr. Trump also criticized South Korea, a crucial ally in the struggle to get the North to stop its weapons programs.
In remarks that are likely to be cheered in Beijing, Mr. Trump said he wanted South Korea to pay the cost of the advanced missile defense system, which he estimated at $1 billion. And he said he intended to renegotiate or terminate a trade pact with South Korea because of a deep trade deficit with the country.