WASHINGTON (CBSMiami) – Secretary of State Rex Tillerson made his United Nations Security Council debut on Friday, chairing the Security Council meeting on the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons in North Korea.
In his remarks, Tillerson said that failure to curb North Korea’s nuclear program could be “catastrophic,” and that the threat of attack on Tokyo or Seoul is real.
“With each successive detonation and missile test, North Korea pushes Northeast Asia and the world closer to instability and broader conflict. The threat of a North Korean nuclear attack on Seoul, or Tokyo, is real. And it is likely only a matter of time before North Korea develops the capability to strike the U.S. mainland,” said Tillerson.
Tillerson said the U.S. and its allies can longer afford to sit back.
“For too long, the international community has been reactive in addressing North Korea. Those days must come to an end. Failing to act now on the most pressing security issue in the world may bring catastrophic consequences. We have said this before and it bears repeating: the policy of strategic patience is over. Additional patience will only mean acceptance of a nuclear North Korea. The more we bide our time, the sooner we will run out of it. In light of the growing threat, the time has come for all of us to put new pressure on North Korea to abandon its dangerous path. I urge this Council to act before North Korea does.”
The U.S. military has put on a show of force in the region in recent days. Tillerson said China could be a key to resolving the situation through diplomacy.
“We must all do our share, but with China accounting for 90% of North Korean trade, China alone has economic leverage over Pyongyang that is unique, and its role is therefore particularly important. The U.S. and China have held productive exchanges on this issue, and we look forward to further actions that build on what China has already done.”
Foreign Ministers from China, Japan, South Korea and Britain attended Friday’s UN meeting, a sign of how serious other nations are taking the standoff with North Korea.
China’s Foreign Minister said a peaceful settlement between the U.S. and North Korea is the only viable choice. He said Beijing supports full implementation of UN resolutions on North Korea but did not comment on whether China will impose its own sanctions on its ally.
Tillerson says the U.S. is keeping their options open if diplomacy fails.
President Donald Trump has said tensions with North Korea could reach a boiling point if they continue to pursue nuclear weapons.
“There’s a chance that we could end up having a major, major conflict with North Korea,” said Trump.
Meanwhile, North Korea remains defiant. On Friday morning, the nation’s state run television aired video of this week’s massive live fire exercise. Leader Kim Jong UN and his officers are seen cheering.