Tillerson Suggests Pre-Emptive Military Action Against North Korea a Possibility

The U.S. is warning North Korea to denuclearize or else.


John Pavelka / Wikimedia Commons

In light of North Korea's recent nuclear and ballistic missile tests, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has announced that all talks with Pyongyang are closed until the country denuclearizes, reports the Associated Press.

Tillerson recently spoke at a press conference in Seoul, South Korea, as part of a three-nation trip that also included Japan and China. It has been described as a listening tour by the State Department in order to devise a better policy for dealing with North Korea, the AP story explained.

"It's important that the leadership of North Korea realize that their current pathway of nuclear weapons and escalating threats will not lead to their objective of security and economic development," Tillerson said. "That pathway can only be achieved by denuclearizing, giving up their weapons of mass destruction, and only then will we be prepared to engage with them in talks."

The secretary of state also announced that it may be necessary for the U.S. to take pre-emptive military action against North Korea if the country's weapons program reaches a critical threat level. "All of the options are on the table," he said.

North Korea became the eighth nation to have nuclear capabilities after successfully testing its first nuclear weapon in October 2006, CNN notes. Since then, the country has engaged in numerous nuclear and ballistic missile tests.

Just last week, CNN reported that North Korea launched four missiles, with three of the missiles landing just 200 nautical miles offshore of Japan. The act prompted Japan to hold its first civilian missile evacuation drill in the coastal city of Oga, per the AP.

As North Korea's weapon program advances, Siegfried S. Hecker, emeritus director of the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, told The New York Times that "Pyongyang will likely develop the capability to reach the continental United States with a nuclear tipped missile in a decade or so."

With this news, Tillerson declared that the Obama administration's policy of "strategic patience" is over. "Twenty years of talks with North Korea have brought us to where we are today," he said.

President Donald Trump has also weighed in on the situation in his typically outlandish fashion. "North Korea is behaving very badly," he tweeted this morning. "They have been 'playing' the United States for years. China has done little to help!"

As Reason Associate Editor Ed Krayewski noted last week, China is urging a diplomatic solution:

China, which has taken it upon itself to act as a mediator on the North Korea nuclear issue, proposed that North Korea suspend its nuclear and missile programs while the U.S. and South Korea suspend joint military exercises. However, the U.S. posture on the Korean peninsula has not escalated, and North Korea's erratic decision-making process on missile tests doesn't track neatly with specific U.S. or South Korean actions.

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  1. Saying that an option is off the table is ridiculous. Is it a first option? No. Is it AN option? Yes. You have to realize that ALL possibilities are, in fact, possibilities. If somebody knows military action is impossible, then they already know how far we can be pushed.

    1. More than that, it is stupid.

      No option is ever off the table. Repeating it is like … having suspended all regulations, a coal mine eventually has a disaster.

      And then some asshole coal mine owner who has ignored all safety regulations which could have helped miner, KNOWING FULLY WELL that he will not be prosecuted grabs a miner’s hat, a bullhorn and bellows

      “NOT ON MY WATCH!”

  2. You know who else suggested preemptive action against North Korea?

    1. Glibertarians?

    2. Those SXSW dudes collecting USB drives through Dear Leader’s mouth?

    3. A Republican named George W. Bush. Included them in the axes of evil. Which promptly forced N. Korea to become nuclear.

      1. BOOOOOOSH!

      2. Is that really causation? Without Bush, you contend that a maniacal leader like Kim jong Il had no interest in nuclear weapons? Did China not also play a part?

  3. What do they think we can do to North Korea?

    Recall our ambassador that is not there?

    Place sanctions on a broke country whose leadership doesn’t care if their citizens are starving and whose people are basically brain-washed?

    We’ve tried relying on China and, shockingly, it hasn’t exactly worked out well.

    1. I still can’t believe a backwards nation of starving people managed to make a Nuclear weapon in the first place. I find it far more likely someone just gave them one in the hopes that they would accidentally set it off in their own capital.

      Launching missiles into North Korea could only make their GDP go up as they could export the scrap for cash and they would have fewer mouths to not feed.

      1. I still can’t believe a backwards nation of starving people managed to make a Nuclear weapon in the first place.

        India and Pakistan.

        I recall an interview with a Pakistani general where he basically explained how and why their starving nations could build nuclear weapons.

        1. North Korea is not even comparable to India. India has a lot of starving people. But they also have a lot of highly educated people who have good jobs.

    2. YEAH. The libertarian solution therefore is “regime change”

      Forget 20 years, never has anyone fallen for libertarian ideas. They have been tried in the mainstream market of competing ideas and failed.

      Ditch them now?

  4. All options on the table seems a big leap from preemptive action.

    1. All Options On The Table was Winston’s mom’s nickname in college.

      1. Huh. Small world.

  5. Indeed. I have an option, right now, to just murder somebody.

    Is it a first option? Nope. But the option exists.

  6. Dispatch from the reality-based community: Today in Trump embarrasses the planet news, he mentions a nonexistent trade deal with Germany, reverses an apology issued from the White House to Great Britain for falsely implicating their intelligence services in the fake Obama wiretapping accusation, and the White House website links to a parody column at the Washington Post thinking its obvious sarcasm was praise. No reports of the president inappropriately touching Angela Merkel as of yet, aided possibly by the fact that she wouldn’t even shake his hand.

    But thank god we don’t have to deal with email pantsuits.

    1. At least they didn’t mistake a Nigerian poem for an Irish proverb. Thank (the White Christian Republican) God that the crack White House staff know how to use Google or they’d be making mistake after embarrassing mistake.

      1. You know who else mistook Nigerian communications for legitimate ones?

    2. Email Pantsuit was Tony’s nickname in college.

    3. Wow! You reality-based community people certainly focus on all the most important things. Did he get the number of states wrong? Did he call himself The Decider? Did he misspell potato? Did he make up some new words? Did he say he’s staying in a race in case his opponent is assassinated? Did he ask a paralyzed man to stand up? Did he call North Korea an ally? Did he compare his bowling game to the Special Olympics? Please keep us up to date, because these are the things that MATTER.

      1. Obama isn’t the current president, but maybe if you keep obsessing over him we can pretend that we don’t now have a thin-skinned, reality-challenged, petty, vindictive, malignant narcissist as a commander in chief.

        1. Wait, you just said Obama left office…

        2. Somebody didn’t read the entire comment. As usual!

      2. They evidently mattered enormously to the rightwing cousinfuckers of America. They stuck with that 57 state thing for a solid 6 of his 8 years in office as all the evidence they had–er needed–that he was an idiot.

    4. >inappropriately touching Angela Merkel

      Ew. Gross. I refuse to entertain the idea that any man, even Donald Trump would WANT to grab that…

    5. Yep. Because Hillary doesn’t make any mistakes. Ever. Given her perfect record it must’ve been the Russians that hacked the election.

      I hate Trump too, Tony. But to counter a dumbass with a bigger dumbass is even below you.

  7. “Tillerson declared that the Obama administration’s policy of “strategic patience” is over. ”

    The era of strategic impatience has begun. Those inscrutable Chinese now have the toe tapping, finger drumming Americans right where they want them.

  8. Trump Offers No Apology for Claim on British Spying

    WASHINGTON ? President Trump refused to back down on Friday after his White House aired an unverified claim that Britain’s spy agency secretly monitored him during last year’s campaign at the behest of President Barack Obama.

    Although his aides in private conversations since Thursday night had tried to calm British officials who were livid over the claim, Mr. Trump made clear that he felt the White House had nothing to retract or apologize for. He said his spokesman was simply repeating an assertion made by a Fox News commentator.

    The flap with Britain started when Mr. Spicer, in the course of defending Mr. Trump’s original accusation against Mr. Obama, on Thursday read from the White House lectern comments by Mr. Napolitano asserting that the British spy agency was involved. Mr. Napolitano said on air that Mr. Obama had used Britain’s Government Communications Headquarters, the signals agency known as the GCHQ, to spy on Mr. Trump.

    Shortly afterward, Fox backed off the claim made by its commentator, Andrew Napolitano. “Fox News cannot confirm Judge Napolitano’s commentary,” the anchor Shepard Smith said on air. “Fox News knows of no evidence of any kind that the now president of the United States was surveilled at any time, any way. Full stop.”

    Good lord, it’s Amateur Hour 24/7.

    1. While Trump is basically the liar in chief, the point wasn’t that Trump himself was wiretapped but rather employees of the campaign were picked up on unrelated FISA wiretaps and then those communications, with the names attached, were leaked from inside the government. That part is a big deal, but of course it’s also the part that virtually no one is talking about.

      Not that I’m going to cry over government leaks, but if they were engineered leaks to damage a candidate by the deep state I would be a lot more worried about it.

      1. If you had to choose sides you’d really pick Trump over the career intelligence people?

        1. We know what side you’re on, Tony: police state tactics.

        2. Career intelligence. Kinda says it all.

        3. Besides, Tony. Today is the 12 hours at Sebring. Take some time off and enjoy the gratuitously burned hydrocarbons.

    2. Fox backed off the claim made by its commentator, Andrew Napolitano.

      No, they did no such thing. Instead “Douchebags For Drumpf” merely raised enough doubt so as to let the lie take root.

      Backing off would require “Judge Napolitano is a fucking liar”

      Then, Republicans posing as libertarians would have produced their own article of “At least he is not Hillary”

  9. I think everyone here is making the mistake of assuming what people say about/to North Korea is supposed to be understood at face value.

    I mean, if you think OUR rhetoric is supposed to be taken seriously…. What exactly is Lindsay Marchello’s hot-take on the typical North Korean diplomatic missive?

    I mean, just google “Sea of Fire”. its like their favorite term ever. they drop it every 3 years or so, promising to liquidate their enemies in a cleansing bath of nuclear oblivion.

    Our posture re: the Norks since clinton has been this neutral tough-but-firm thing which was intended to simply “wait out” the old regime, hoping that the transfer of power to Fatty Jr. would result in an internal coup and then reconciliation w/ china.

    *And BTW, everything we do re: the Norks is *always* done in concert w/ the Chinese. if we change our tune, its because China wants us to. We play good-cop/bad-cop games with them as our partner.

    If we’re changing our posture to more “bad cop” tough-guy, its because Fatty Jr. has proven to be a bigger douche and more tenacious at holding onto legacy-power than anticipated. Basically, the ‘wait shit out’ approach has proven fruitless.

    So now we become more verbally hostile. why? Probably so Norks get all frothy and redouble their defense initiatives, and hopefully burn themselves out, similar to Reagan vis a vis Russians w/ SDS

    1. With the United States mulling air strikes on North Korean facilities in 1994, former U.S. President Jimmy Carter flew into Pyongyang to meet Kim Il Sung, and that set the scene for the so-called “Agreed Framework” under which North Korea would give up its nuclear facilities in return for light water reactors from the international community.

      Carter’s on the case. Peace in 3…2…

      1. Dennis Rodman would be more effective than Carter.

        And less whiny.

  10. I knew AfterMASH was just a fantasy.

  11. So, are we happy now that Rex Tillerson is giving public speaking engagements?

  12. Rex Tillerson seems like a joke so far. But I can’t really get worried about this. It’s freaking North Korea. Playing nice hasn’t helped us with them either. So let the fun begin. While I cant stand Trump, I wouldnt mind seeing him be himself when bashing the North Korean bastads

  13. President Donald Trump has also weighed in on the situation in his typically outlandish fashion. “North Korea is behaving very badly,” he tweeted this morning. “They have been ‘playing’ the United States for years. China has done little to help!”

    Is there some definition of “outlandish” that I’m not privy to? Trump’s assessment is actually a fairly common one amongst international observers of North Korea’s actions over the last few decades, regardless of ideological bent. Or is it simply “outlandish” to actually mention it?

  14. Drumpf and his minions are itching for bolstering a “NEED BIGGEST MILITARY” argument.

    So provoke, provoke, provoke till Kim Jong Un nukes S. Korea or Japan. Which then gives him a reason for a fullscale invasion of N. Korea

    “Regime change”

    Ably backed by the jilted lovers Graham and McCain.

    But for the fuckwad Flynn fucking it up SOOOOOO BADLY, we would already be in Iran.

    1. “fullscale invasion of N. Korea”???
      Why would we be sending the Marines into a smoking. nuclear-devastated desert?

  15. The Trump and and Kim Jong-un are locked in a strategic battle to see who sounds the most bat-shit crazy.

    Too close to call so far.

  16. Anime already fucking deals with tsunamis and shitty nuclear meltdowns why goddamn fathead jerkoff missiles spit willy-nilly?

  17. Nuke the site from orbit. It’s the only way to be sure.

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