U.S. President Donald Trump has taken a hard line with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, who has rebuffed admonitions from sole major ally China and proceeded with nuclear and missile programs in defiance of U.N. Security Council sanctions.
The Rodong Sinmun, the official newspaper of the North's ruling Workers' Party, did not mince its words. "In the case of our super-mighty preemptive strike being launched, it will completely and immediately wipe out not only U.S. imperialists' invasion forces in South Korea and its surrounding areas but the U.S. mainland and reduce them to ashes," it said.
Reclusive North Korea regularly threatens to destroy Japan, South Korea and the United States and has shown no let-up in its belligerence after a failed missile test on Sunday and a huge display of missiles at a parade in Pyongyang.
Tillerson told reporters this week that the United States was "reviewing all the status of North Korea, both in terms of state sponsorship of terrorism as well as the other ways in which we can bring pressure on the regime in Pyongyang."
U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan said during a visit to London the military option must be part of the pressure brought to bear. "Allowing this dictator to have that kind of power is not something that civilized nations can allow to happen," he said in reference to Kim.
Ryan said he was encouraged by the results of efforts to work with China to reduce tension, but that it was unacceptable North Korea might be able to strike allies with nuclear weapons. North and South Korea are technically still at war because their 1950-53 conflict ended in a truce, not a peace treaty.
The United Nations Security Council on Thursday condemned North Korea's latest failed missile test and demanded Pyongyang not conduct any more nuclear tests, in a statement that had been delayed as the United States and Russia sparred over language. A North Korean missile blew up almost immediately on its test launch on Sunday, the U.S. military said. The 15-member Security Council traditionally condemns all such launches by Pyongyang.