Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Sunday that the U.S. objective in North Korea is de-nuclearization, not regime change.
North Korea argues that it needs nuclear weapons to preserve the regime. Tillerson has been trying to send the message that the country’s justification for the development of nuclear weapons in violation of international restrictions is flawed.
“We have been very clear that our objective is a denuclearized Korean Peninsula,” he explained Sunday, “We have no objective to change the regime in North Korea; that is not our objective.”
“They’re working their way towards the test of an intercontinental ballistic missile. And these are the kinds of progress that give us the greatest concerns. So we have been quite clear with the regime in Pyongyang that that’s what we want them to cease,” Tillerson added.
His comments echo previous statements in Tokyo, Japan.
“North Korea and its people need not fear the United States or their neighbors in the region who seek only to live in peace with North Korea,” Tillerson said, “With this in mind, the United States calls on North Korea to abandon its nuclear and ballistic missile programs and refrain from any further provocation.”
Some of the administration’s other comments and actions have Kim Jong-un doubting Tillerson’s sincerity.
This year’s joint Key Resolve and Foal Eagle drills involving thousands of U.S. and South Korean troops reportedly included preparations for a decapitation strike — the elimination of North Korean leadership. Operations Plan 5015, the U.S.-South Korean war plans for a nuclear contingency on the peninsula, is believed to include operational strategies for the removal of North Korean leaders, including the young despot Kim Jong-un. Also, options for America’s North Korea policy include removing Kim from power, thus changing the North Korean regime.
Such aggressive actions would likely only be taken in the event that North Korea attempted to use its nuclear arsenal for more than coercive diplomacy.
Pyongyang argues that President Donald Trump’s missile strikes on Syria proves North Korea’s decision to develop nuclear weapons was “the right choice a million times over.”
Since Trump took office, North Korea has fired off multiple ballistic missiles, tested rockets for a potential intercontinental ballistic missile, and made preparations for a possible sixth nuclear test.
Tensions on the Korean Peninsula are running particularly high right now as the U.S. deploys strategic military assets to Northeast Asia and North Korean provocations become more frequent.
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