U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson says that military action is "an option on the table" if the threat posed by North Korea increases.
Speaking in Seoul on March 17, Tillerson said the policy of "strategic patience" had ended and Washington was exploring a range of new diplomatic, economic, and military measures against Pyongyang over its nuclear and ballistic-missiles program.
He also defended the deployment of a U.S. missile-defense system in South Korea, a move that has angered China and North Korea.
Tillerson said that Washington does not want a military conflict, but that North Korean actions that threaten its neighbors or the United States 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," he said when asked about military action.
Tillerson spoke shortly after visiting the demilitarized zone that divides the two Koreas.
Tillerson, speaking a day earlier in Tokyo, said that a "new approach" was needed after two decades of what he said were failed efforts to "bring North Korea to the point of denuclearization."
He also said North Korea and its people "need not fear" the United States.