A joint statement from Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Secretary of Defense 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 authorized 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.
The full statement is below:
Past efforts have failed to halt North Korea’s unlawful weapons programs and nuclear and ballistic missile tests. With each provocation, North Korea jeopardizes stability in Northeast Asia and poses a growing threat to our Allies and the U.S. homeland.
North Korea’s pursuit of nuclear weapons is an urgent national security threat and top foreign policy priority. Upon assuming office, President Trump ordered a thorough review of U.S. policy pertaining to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK).
Today, along with Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joe Dunford, we briefed Members of Congress on the review. The President’s approach aims to pressure North Korea into dismantling its nuclear, ballistic missile, and proliferation programs by tightening economic sanctions and pursuing diplomatic measures with our Allies and regional partners.
We are engaging responsible members of the international community to increase pressure on the DPRK in order to convince the regime to de-escalate and return to the path of dialogue. We will maintain our close coordination and cooperation with our Allies, especially the Republic of Korea and Japan, as we work together to preserve stability and prosperity in the region.
The United States seeks stability and the peaceful denuclearization of the Korean peninsula. We remain open to negotiations towards that goal. However, we remain prepared to defend ourselves and our Allies.