US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson would not rule out military action in response to North Korean aggressions, as he signalled a shift in Washington''s approach during a visit today in South Korea.
"Let me be clear: The policy of strategic patience has ended," Tillerson said at a press conference with the South Korean foreign minister in Seoul today.
He said Washington is "exploring a new range of diplomatic, security and economic measures. All options are on the table."
US President Donald Trump's top diplomat said that any moves by North Korea that threaten troops in the South "will be met with the appropriate response".
"North Korea must understand that the only path to a secure, economically-prosperous future is to abandon its development of nuclear weapons, ballistic missiles, and other weapons of mass destruction," Tillerson said.
South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se praised the Trump administration's "robust Asia engagement policy.
At the White House, Trump weighed in via Twitter. "North Korea is behaving very badly. They have been 'playing' the United States for years," he tweeted. "China has done little to help!"
One of the few capitals that maintains relations with Pyongyang, Beijing is seen as having significant economic and political sway over the reclusive North Korean communist regime.
In Seoul, Tillerson urged "other regional powers" to join demands for North Korea to "choose a better path and a different future for its people".
Tillerson was on the second stop of a three-country Asia trip, which followed Pyongyang''s March 6 test launch of four ballistic missiles. Earlier, Tillerson visited the demilitarised zone (DMZ) at the border between North and South Korea, where he had lunch with troops, received a briefing and reportedly walked near the demarcation line.
North soldiers watch, take pictures
North Korean soldiers watched and took photographs, Yonhap reported. Tillerson also met South Korea's acting President and Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn, a week after a court upheld the impeachment of Park Geun-hye.
In a public appearance at the start of their meeting, Hwang pointed out that he had telephoned twice with Trump, and that US Defence Secretary James Mattis had visited Seoul last month.
Hwang noted that Tillerson was visiting "despite the transitional situation in our domestic politics. I believe that this clearly shows that the United States is with Korea 100 percent, as President Trump has mentioned on numerous occasions."
Tillerson said he was reaffirming that Washington and Seoul have an "ironclad alliance," which is the "lynchpin for security and stability in the Korean Peninsula."
In addition to threats from the North and its own political turmoil, South Korea faces economic threats from China over the deployment of a US missile defence system. North Korea's recent missile tests, part of an exercise that Pyongyang said targeted US military bases in Japan, prompted Washington to deploy the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defence (THAAD) system to South Korea.
The US has said the system is strictly defensive. Tillerson noted today the Chinese opposition to the THAAD deployment but said Beijing's "economic retaliation against South Korea is inappropriate and troubling".
"Instead, we urge China to address the threat that makes that necessary - that being the escalating threat from North Korea," he said.
Tillerson is due in Beijing around noon tomorrow, for talks with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and State Councilor Yang Jiechi.
On Thursday in Tokyo, Tillerson underpinned the importance of cooperation with Japan and South Korea after meeting with Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida in Tokyo.
"It is important to recognise that diplomatic and other efforts of the past 20 years to bring North Korea to a point of denuclearisation have failed," said Tillerson. He urged a "different approach" to dealing with North Korea''s "ever-escalating threat."