'Mattis will take care of it': Tillerson, Haley say N. Korea military option on table

The Trump administration will not rule out the military option for North Korea, the US ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said.

In the run-up to the UN General Assembly, where US President Donald Trump is set to discuss the escalating situation on the Korean Peninsula with other world leaders, two of his highest-ranking officials have made remarks suggesting that the United States is ready and willing to use force to achieve its aims in the region.

“We have pretty much exhausted all the things that we can do at the [UN] Security Council at this point,” Haley told CNN’s State of the Union on Sunday. “We wanted to be responsible and go through all diplomatic means to get their attention first, if that doesn’t work, [Secretary of Defense] General Mattis will take care of it.”

According to Haley, Trump's “fire and fury” comment wasn’t just empty words, regarding the situation on the peninsula. 

“If North Korea keeps on with this reckless behavior, if the United States has to defend itself or defend its allies in any way, North Korea will be destroyed,” Haley said, “And we all know that, and none of us want that.”

Also on Sunday, Rex Tillerson gave an interview to the program Face the Nation on CBS, in which he said that US policy toward North Korea consisted of the “four no’s,” namely “we do not seek regime change, do not seek the regime’s collapse, do not seek accelerated reunion … of the peninsula,” and that there are no plans to bring American forces north of the demilitarized zone (DMZ) separating the two Koreas. The US will, however, continue applying pressure on Pyongyang.

"All of that is designed to bring North Korea to the table for constructive, productive dialogue," he said.

But like Haley, Tillerson also did not rule out a military response if Washington feels all peaceful efforts have been exhausted.

“If our diplomatic efforts fail though, our military option will be the only one left,” he told the show.

Tensions have been steadily rising on the Korean Peninsula over the past few months, with Pyongyang conducting several missile and nuclear tests in defiance of rulings by the UN Security Council, while the United States has continued to carry out joint exercises with South Korea and Japan while amplifying its rhetoric against Pyongyang.

Russia and China have repeatedly called for a diplomatic solution to the crisis, arguing that more punitive measures will not ease the distrust North Korea feels about the US and its allies and instead will more likely result in a humanitarian catastrophe.

“Ramping up military hysteria in such conditions is senseless; it’s a dead end,” Russian President Vladimir Putin said earlier in September. “It could lead to a global, planetary catastrophe and a huge loss of human life. There is no other way to solve the North Korean nuclear issue, save that of peaceful dialogue.”

To resolve the crisis, Russia and China have proposed to set up a “double-freeze,” in which the United States ceases its drills with South Korea in exchange for the North suspending its weapons programs. However, the United States has not accepted this proposal, saying it has every right to carry out exercises with its allies.