US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the United States was looking at ways to pressure North Korea over its nuclear programme as North Korean state media warned the Americans of a “super-mighty preemptive strike”, saying don’t “mess with us”.
US President Donald Trump has taken a hard line with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, who has rebuffed admonitions from sole major ally China and proceeded with nuclear and missile programmes in defiance of UN Security Council resolutions.
US Vice President Mike Pence, on a tour of Asian allies, has said repeatedly the “era of strategic patience” with North Korea is over.
US House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan, on a visit to London, said the military option must be part of the pressure brought to bear.
“Allowing this dictator to have that kind of power is not something that civilised nations can allow to happen,” he said in reference to Kim.
Ryan said he was encouraged by the results of efforts to work with China to reduce tensions, but that it was unacceptable North Korea might be able to strike allies with nuclear weapons.
North and South Korea are technically still at war because their 1950-53 conflict ended in a truce, not a peace treaty.
South Korea’s acting president, Hwang Kyo-ahn, at a meeting with top officials on Thursday, repeatedly called for the military and security ministries to maintain vigilance.
South Korean presidential candidates clashed on Wednesday night in a TV debate over the planned U.S.-supplied Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) anti-missile system which has angered China, with frontrunner Moon Jae-in criticised for leaving his options open.