The nation's top military and diplomatic officers said over the weekend the United States remains intent on pursuing a diplomatic approach to rein in North Korea, but is also readying military options should provocation occur.
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson wrote in the Wall Street Journal on Sunday the international community backs U.S. plans to apply diplomatic and economic pressure to force the "complete, verifiable, and irreversible" denuclearization of North Korea.
Echoing previous assertions by President Donald Trump, Mattis and Tillerson said they had replaced the Obama administration's "failed" strategic patience approach to the Kim Jong Un regime with a policy of "strategic accountability."
The two made clear the new strategy is designed solely to force the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. The United States is not pursuing regime change, reunification of Korea, or the stationing of U.S. troops in the North.
"North Korea now faces a choice," they wrote. "Take a new path toward peace, prosperity, and international acceptance, or continue further down the dead alley of belligerence, poverty, and isolation. The U.S. will aspire and work for the former, and will remain vigilant against the latter."
The op-ed arrived the same day Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford said the United States is prioritizing diplomacy over a military solution to Pyongyang after spending the day meeting with senior South Korean military and political officials.
Dunford made clear he was also preparing military options for Trump should diplomatic and economic efforts fail to deter Pyongyang.
He leaves Monday for China and will visit Tokyo, Japan, later this week to discuss the rising threat. His visit comes after Trump announced he was prepared to release "fire and fury" if North Korea continues to threaten the United States, making clear the military is "locked and loaded."
The Trump administration has attempted to pressure China, North Korea's ally and greatest trading partner, to leverage its economic power over Pyongyang to force the regime to scale back its nuclear and ballistic missile programs.
Though at first efforts were stagnant, China issued a ban Monday on several North Korean imports, including coal and iron ore as part of recently passed United Nations sanctions on the Kim regime.