NORTH KOREA could soon trigger a conflict with the United States if it continues to ignore calls to diplomatically give up its nuclear weapons and missiles, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson warned.
Secretary Tillerson said the threat of a war with North Korea is now growing despite Pyongyang’s recent diplomatic talks with South Korean officials.
He said: “With respect to whether Americans should be concerned about a war with North Korea, I think we all need to be very sober and clear-eyed about the current situation.
“We have to recognise that the threat is growing.”
North Korea news: Rex Tillerson warned the North Korean threat still exists
The chief US-North Korea negotiator continued: “North Korea has continued to make significant advances in both its nuclear weapons – the lethality of those weapons is demonstrated by their last thermonuclear test – as well as in their intercontinental ballistic missile systems.
“If North Korea does not choose the pathway of engagement – discussion and negotiation – then they themselves will trigger a military option.”
The Secretary of State was also asked about the possibility of a limited, targeted military strike against North Korea designed to cripple its nuclear weapons before they are able to perfect their missile technology.
He refused to speak on the topic, insisting he would not speak on undecided issues.
North and South Korea held formal talks for the first time in two years this month and Pyongyang said it would send athletes to the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, in February.
There have also been discussions about the two nations fielding a joint women’s ice hockey team.
Despite the recent dialogue, Kim Jong-un has refused to back down on developing nuclear weapons in the face of increasingly severe UN sanctions.
Japan’s Foreign Minister Taro Kono agreed with Mr Tillerson that the world should not be fooled by North Korea opening a dialogue with its neighbour.
He said: ‘It is not the time to ease pressure, or to reward North Korea. The fact that North Korea is engaging in dialogue could be interpreted as proof that the sanctions are working.”