A joint statement from Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Secretary of Defence Jim Mattis, and Director of National Intelligence Dan Coates outlined the US’s new stance on North Korea on Wednesday.
“Past efforts have failed to halt North Korea’s unlawful weapons programs and nuclear and ballistic missile tests,” the statement reads.
“North Korea jeopardizes the stability in Northeast Asia and poses a growing threat to our allies and the US Homeland.”
President Donald Trump authorised a review of the White House’s North Korea policy upon entering office, according to the statement, and has resolved to ramp up pressure on the North Korean regime to deescalate tensions. The statement may also shed some light on the classified briefing Senators received at the White House on Wednesday about the hermit kingdom.
“We are engaging responsible members of the international community to increase pressure on the DPRK,” reads the statment, referring to North Korea by it’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
The release specifically cites US allies South Korea and Japan as partners in the effort to reel in North Korea. Trump has also been especially vocal about getting China’s help in resolving the issue.
China, North Korea’s biggest backer, is responsible for about 85% of North Korea’s external trade and provides a similar amount of their energy imports.
At their meeting earlier this month, Trump said he told China’s Xi Jinping that “the way you’re gonna make a good trade deal [with the US] is to help us with North Korea, otherwise we’re just going to go it alone.”
The joint statement did break from previous US messaging on North Korea in one small way, saying “we remain open to negotiations” towards denuclearizing the Korean peninsula. But it did not elaborate further.
Experts contacted by Business Insider have stressed that diplomatic engagement with North Korea, an option that hasn’t yet been pursued by the Trump administration, could be the key to defusing the crisis.
The statement ends on a familiar note: “We remain prepared to defend ourselves and our allies,” it reads. A US aircraft carrier and nuclear submarine are currently stationed off of North Korea’s coast.
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