Secretary of State Rex Tillerson stated in Seoul that a US policy of strategic patience with North Korea has ended, adding military action would be on the table if North Korea elevated the threat level. He stated any North Korean actions against South Korea would be met with the right response. He wants China to impose sanctions against North Korea and said there was no need for China to punish South Korea for deploying a US anti-missile system against North Korea.

China believes the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system (THAAD) is a threat to its security. China has imposed some business restrictions against South Korea in response to the deployment of the missile system. Reuters reports North Korea has conducted two nuclear tests and several missile launches since the beginning of last year.

Tillerson visited the Demilitarized Zone, and looked across the fortified border at armed North Korean guards. Tillerson met some of the 28,500 US troops stationed in South Korea. He also met South Korean Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn, who is the acting president.

Tension with North Korea and elections in South Korea

The latest bout of tension with North Korea comes in a moment of political turmoil in South Korea. President Park Geun-hye was ousted after being impeached in a corruption scandal, a new election for a new president will be on May 9. An opposition politician, Moon Jae-in, who has raised questions about the THAAD in South Korea, is leading in the polls.

Tillerson stated he expected a new government would continue to be supportive of the Thaad deployment. China resents US pressure against North Korea. China has urged the communist state to stop its nuclear and missile tests. China also wants South Korea and US to stop joint military exercises. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, Hua Chunying, believes that talks are the best way to resolve the problems between North and South Korea.