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U.S. warns of military option if North Korea continues push for nuclear weapons

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Friday that “all options” were available to deal with North Korea’s emerging nuclear threat, including a militarily strike if necessary to safeguard the region and American forces stationed here. 

“Certainly we do not want for things to get to a military conflict,” Tillerson told reporters here. “We’ve been quite clear on that in our communications. But obviously if North Korea takes actions that threaten the South Korean forces or our own forces, then that will be met with an appropriate response.

“Let me very clear: The policy of strategic patience has ended,” he said, referring to the Obama administration's policy of trying to wait out the North Korean regime while pressing it with economic sanctions and covert actions.

He repeatedly stressed the need for continued sanctions but also made clear that the Trump administration would not be limited to that approach.

“We’re exploring a new range of diplomatic, security and economic measures. All options are on the table,” he said. 

He also appeared to reject the idea of a negotiated freeze in the current North Korean weapons program.

"In terms of talking about any kind of a freeze, I think it’s premature for that,” he said. “At this stage, I’m not sure we would be willing to freeze with the circumstances where they exist today, given that would leave North Korea with significant capabilities that would represent a true threat not just to the region but to American forces as well. 

Tillerson’s remarks, standing next to his South Korean counterpart, Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se, were made during a three-country diplomatic swing through Asia. They came a day after he declared, in a news conference in Tokyo, that two decades of American policy on North Korea’s advancing nuclear program had “failed” and that a “different approach” was required. 

President Trump later declared that North Korea was "behaving very badly" and dismissed Chinese efforts to engage the U.S. and North Korea in talks. 

6:21 a.m.: This story was updated with comment from President Trump. 

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