World Bulletin / News Desk
U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Friday outlined a carrot-and-stick approach to resolve tensions with North Korea, calling on the UN to levy fresh sanctions on the reclusive nation.
"All options for responding to future provocation must remain on the table," Tillerson told the Security Council.
"Diplomatic and financial leverage will be backed up by willingness to counteract North Korean aggression with military action, if necessary," he said.
Tillerson noted that the threat of a North Korean nuclear strike on Seoul or Tokyo was "real", and it was a "matter of time" before the country develops the capability to strike the U.S. mainland.
"Failing to act on the most pressing security issue in the world may bring catastrophic consequences," he said.
Friday's meeting came amid a rising war of words between Washington and Pyongyang, which has defied the international community with numerous ballistic missile tests over the last months.
Despite recent tough talk from President Donald Trump on North Korea, Tillerson said the U.S. did not seek regime change and highlighted what the country stood to gain if tensions were resolved peacefully.
The country "for its own sake, must dismantle its nuclear missile programs if it wants to achieve the security, economic development and international recognition that it seeks", Tillerson said, even promising financial aid.
However, he added North Korea must take concrete steps before the U.S. would consider direct talks.
The U.S.'s top diplomat underlined China's role in pressuring North Korea as "unique" in part because it is responsible for 90 percent of Pyongyang's trade.
In remarks to the session, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres described North Korea as "the only country to have conducted nuclear tests this century".
"We need to avoid miscalculation and misunderstanding. We need to act now to prevent conflict and achieve sustainable peace," Guterres said.
North Korea on Tuesday celebrated the 85th year of the founding of its military, leaving the world guessing whether it would attempt its sixth-ever nuclear test amid rising tensions.
An unsuccessful missile launch on April 18, three days after the 105th birthday of the country's founding leader Kim Il-sung, was strongly condemned by the UN as "flagrant and provocative".
On Wednesday, South Korea and the United States proceeded with the deployment of a controversial anti-missile system known as THAAD (Terminal High Altitude Area Defense).
The two allies have rushed to deploy the system despite Beijing’s objections -- apparently on the grounds that the THAAD radar could be used to spy on China.