Secretary of State Rex Tillerson warned the UN Security Council on Friday to take North Korea’s nuclear threats against Japan and South Korea seriously or deal with the “catastrophic consequences” that will likely unfold.
“In light of the growing threat, the time has come for all of us to put new pressure on North Korea to abandon its dangerous path,” he said. “I urge this Council to act before North Korea does”.
Speaking bluntly at a special Security Council session, the top U.S. diplomat urged China and other countries to pressure Pyongyang to abandon its ballistic missile and nuclear weapons program by imposing “painful” sanctions on the communist regime.
“We must levy new sanctions on [North Korean] entities and individuals supporting its weapons and missiles programs and tighten those already in place,” Tillerson said.
“In light of the growing threat, the time has come for all of us to put new pressure on North Korea to abandon its dangerous path.”
Tillerson said China is currently responsible for 90 percent of North Korea’s trade and has been involved in productive conversations with the U.S. about using its economic leverage to pressure Pyongyang.
He simultaneously urged other countries to halt their diplomatic relations with North Korea, saying “normal relations with the rogue nation are unacceptable.”
The Trump administration is prepared “to counteract North Korean aggression with military action” if a diplomatic solution becomes unattainable, Tillerson said.
Pentagon officials have already shared possible military actions against North Korea with President Trump in the event that diplomatic channels fail.
Those options were shared with the entire U.S. Senate during a rare White House briefing earlier this week.
The ministerial meeting on Friday came hours after Trump told Reuters that he would prefer to use economic sanctions and diplomatic measures to pressure North Korea into abandoning its proliferation programs.
“We’d love to solve things diplomatically but it’s very difficult,” the president said, noting that “there is a chance that we could end up having a major, major conflict.”
Trump said he “hopes” North Korean leader Kim Jong-un will behave rationally and end his threats against the United States.
“I’m not giving him any credit or not giving him any credit, I’m just saying that’s a very hard thing to do,” he said of the 27-year-old dictator. “As to whether he’s rational, I have no opinion on it. I hope he’s rational.”