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Tillerson warns North Korea: 'Strategic patience has ended,' military action is 'on the table

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (left) listens during a news conference Friday with South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-Se in Seoul. Military action by the United States against nuclear-armed Pyongyang was an "option on the table", Washington's top diplomat said after visiting the Demilitarised Zone that divides the two Koreas. (Jung Yeon-Je/AFP/Getty Images)

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the U.S. is leaving the possibility of military force against North Korea "on the table" if the Hermit Kingdom poses enough of a threat with its nuclear weapons program.

Tillerson made the comments to reporters Friday in Seoul, South Korea, signaling to the world a "new range of diplomatic, security and economic measures," according to the Hill.

"If they elevate the threat of their weapons program to a level that we believe requires action, that option is on the table," Tillerson said of possibly U.S. military intervention. "Let me be very clear: The policy of strategic patience has ended.”

According to the Council on Foreign Relations, "strategic patience" is the policy applied toward North Korea by former President Barack Obama's administration. The approach came after Obama tried unsuccessfully to engage in direct negotiations with North Korea.

Tillerson later added that "certainly" the U.S. does not want a military conflict but is willing to strike if that's what it takes.

"Obviously, if North Korea takes actions that threaten the South Korean forces or our own forces, then that would be met with an appropriate response," Tillerson explained, according to NBC News.

As of late, North Korea has flexed its nuclear capability muscle by testing several different missiles, one of which was launched as President Donald Trump welcomed  Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan, the leader of North Korea's neighbor, to the U.S.

Around 49,000 U.S. troops were stationed in Japan last year while another 28,000 were stationed in South Korea, CNN reported.

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