U.S. says ev­ery op­tion on ta­ble for N. Korea

Tiller­son says 20 years of diplo­macy has been a fail­ure.

Austin American-Statesman - - FRONT PAGE - By Anna Fi­field Wash­ing­ton Post

In Seoul, Sec­re­tary of State Rex Tiller­son said that could mean mil­i­tary ac­tion, as he de­rides 20 years of diplo­macy as a fail­ure.

The Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion gave its clear­est sig­nal yet that it would con­sider tak­ing mil­i­tary ac­tion against North Korea, as Sec­re­tary of State Rex Tiller­son said Fri­day that “all op­tions are on the ta­ble” to de­ter the threat from Py­ongyang.

Ten­sions are run­ning high in North­east Asia, with North Korea mak­ing ob­serv­able progress to­ward its goal of build­ing a mis­sile that could reach the U.S. main­land and China in­censed over South Korea’s de­ci­sion to de­ploy an Amer­i­can an­timis­sile bat­tery.

“Let me be very clear: The pol­icy of strate­gic pa­tience has ended,” Tiller­son said at a news con­fer­ence in Seoul with Yun Byung-se, the South Korean for­eign min­is­ter.

He was re­fer­ring to the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion pol­icy of try­ing to wait North Korea out, hop­ing that sanc­tions would prove so crip­pling that Py­ongyang would have no choice but to re­turn to de­nu­cle­ariza­tion ne­go­ti­a­tions.

“We’re ex­plor­ing a new range of diplo­matic, se­cu­rity and eco­nomic mea­sures. All op­tions are on the ta­ble,” Tiller­son said, adding that while the United States does not want mil­i­tary con­flict, threats “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,” Tiller­son said.

In a sur­prise turn of events, Yun ap­peared to sug­gest that South Korea would sup­port mil­i­tary op­tions.

“We have var­i­ous pol­icy meth­ods avail­able,” Yun said. “If im­pos­ing diplo­matic pres­sure is a build­ing, mil­i­tary de­ter­rence would be one of the pil­lars of this build­ing. We plan to have all rel­e­vant na­tions work to­gether more closely than in the past and make sure that North Korea, feel­ing pain for its wrong­do­ings, changes its strat­egy.”

Sanc­tions and diplo­matic en­gage­ment so far have failed to per­suade North Korea to aban­don its nu­clear weapons pro­gram. But U.S. ad­min­is­tra­tions have long con­sid­ered mil­i­tary ac­tion out of the ques­tion be­cause North Korea has ar­tillery tar­get­ing Seoul, a metropoli­tan area of more than 20 mil­lion peo­ple just 30 miles south of the Demil­i­ta­rized Zone that di­vides the two Koreas.

Now, how­ever, mil­i­tary threats are be­com­ing one of the few re­main­ing op­tions for deal­ing with North Korea, said Hahm Chai-bong, pres­i­dent of the Asan In­sti­tute for Pol­icy Stud­ies in Seoul.

“At this point, it’s al­most the in­evitable next step in the es­ca­la­tion. The only thing is that we’ve never been here be­fore,” Hahm said. “The U.S. and South Korea have never put this much pres­sure on North Korea or re­sponded in such a di­rect way be­fore.”

Some law­mak­ers in Seoul are push­ing for the re­turn of U.S. tac­ti­cal nu­clear weapons to South Korea, while there is in­creas­ingly open talk in Wash­ing­ton of mil­i­tary strikes against North Korea if it tests an in­ter­con­ti­nen­tal bal­lis­tic mis­sile.

North Korea is known for its ex­ag­ger­ated and bel­li­cose rhetoric, but the com­bi­na­tion of threats and mis­sile launches, co­in­cid­ing with Chi­nese anger at South Korea, has raised ten­sions in the re­gion to a level sel­dom seen in re­cent years.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said ear­lier this year that North Korea is work­ing on an in­ter­con­ti­nen­tal bal­lis­tic mis­sile ca­pa­ble of strik­ing the U.S. main­land.

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump re­sponded in a tweet: “It won’t hap­pen!”

But his ad­min­is­tra­tion, which is now con­duct­ing a re­view of North Korea pol­icy, has given few clues as to how it might stop Kim in his tracks. As part of that pol­icy re­view, Tiller­son is vis­it­ing Ja­pan, South Korea and China to hear those gov­ern­ments’ views.

In Tokyo on Thurs­day, he said that 20 years of diplo­matic ef­forts to prod North Korea to aban­don its nu­clear weapons am­bi­tions had failed. He went fur­ther in Seoul on Fri­day, sig­nal­ing that mul­ti­lat­eral talks were not un­der con­sid­er­a­tion.

JUNG YEONG-JE / AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

U.S. Sec­re­tary of State Rex Tiller­son (left) lis­tens to South Korean For­eign Min­is­ter Yun Byung-se dur­ing a joint news con­fer­ence Fri­day in Seoul, South Korea. Tiller­son is tour­ing Asia.

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