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Tillerson’s powerful message

Mar 20,2017
U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson sent a short but powerful message to North Korea during his visit to South Korea. He said, “The policy of strategic patience has ended.” He announced that the Donald Trump administration was “exploring a new range of diplomatic, security, and economic measures. All options are on the table.”

The State Department already indicated that no action plan would come from the first security talks with Seoul from the Trump administration. But Tillerson’s trip to Seoul nevertheless set the tone in the U.S.’ North Korea policy. The new U.S. administration was walking away from the dialogue-first policy through six-party platform as in the past and will mount greater pressure to force North Korea to surrender its weapons program.

In Tokyo, Tillerson also said the two decades of diplomatic efforts have failed to denuclearize North Korea. He made it clear that Washington would not talk unless Pyongyang abandons its weapons program on mass destruction and denuclearizes. It was an unequivocal message that military force would be an option of priority over diplomatic means.

Upon arrival in Seoul, he went straight to the Demilitarized Zone to have a look at the heavily armed border. It was the site where two U.S. officers were axed to death by North Korean security guards in 1976. His choice of the site suggested the U.S. would not tolerate provocations from the Kim Jong-un regime.

Pyongyang should fold its ambition of gaining international recognition as a nuclear state. Washington is out to use all options if the North crosses the so-called Red Line. “If North Korea takes actions that threaten the South Korean forces or our own forces, that will be met with appropriate response,” Tillerson warned. He adding that “We have many, many steps we can take before we get to that point.” Although he had not elaborated, he could be indicating the option of preventive strike.

From the hard-line tone of the Trump administration, Pyongyang must not dare to provoke Washington as it could lead to its own doom.

JoongAng Ilbo, March 18, Page 26