Tillerson reveals preemptive strike among options for North Korea response; Chinese urge caution

UPDATE — 3/19, 3:31 EDT: A State Department spokesman said Secretary Rex Tillerson met for half an hour with Chinese President Xi Jinping on Sunday, with the pair agreeing to cooperate on a strategy to thwart North Korean aggression.

Spokesman Mark Toner also indicated President Trump expects to meet “soon” with the head of Beijing’s government. 


On his first trip to the Far East as Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson told his Chinese hosts the situation in North Korea had reached a “dangerous level” and urged Beijing to exert more influence to curtail Pyongyang and its unpredictable, volatile leader, Kim Jong-un.

Secretary Tillerson met with Chinese officials for the first time on Saturday morning in Beijing.

One day earlier, while visiting South Korea, Mr. Tillerson told reporters at the Demilitarized Zone separating the two countries North Korea’s nuclear-missile activity would be met with “appropriate action” and alternatives currently under consideration included a preemptive strike against the hermit state.

Shortly after Tillerson revealed specifics of U.S. strategy, President Trump said North Korea was “behaving badly” and slapped Beijing’s wrist, reminding Chinese leaders they have done little to curb Kim’s erratic behavior.

Following Friday’s comments, in meetings with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, Wang urged caution and suggested luring North Korea back to the negotiating table would yield results and avert nuclear disaster.

“We hope that all parties, including our friends from the United States, could size up the situation in a cool-headed and comprehensive fashion and arrive at a wise decision,” Mr. Wang said.

Almost one week ago, North Korea test fired four ballistic missiles in open defiance of UN resolutions prohibiting such pursuits.  Pyongyang has conducted over 20 missile tests over the past year, including several nuclear tests.

Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un has pledged his country will continue to develop nuclear weapons and has vowed to perfect an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of striking the U.S. by the end of 2017.

In Pyongyang’s current arsenal are weapons capable of striking America’s regional allies, Japan and South Korea.


[Wall Street Journal] [AP] [BBC] [Reuters] [Photo courtesy Reuters via Channel News Asia]