Secretary of State Rex Tillerson addressed the growing North Korean crisis in remarks Friday before the United Nations Security Council, stating the nation's nuclear threat was real and calling for new, tougher responses by the international community to the rogue nation's aggressive nuclear tests.
"We attust be willing to face the hard truths and make hard choices right now to prevent disastrous outcomes in the future," he said. "Business as usual is not an option."
President Trump said a day earlier there was a potential for "major, major conflict" with North Korea over its nuclear and missile programs, but he would prefer a diplomatic response.
Tillerson said North Korea was pushing the world toward "broader conflict" with each nuclear test, and he called the threat of a nuclear attack on South Korea or Japan "real."
"It is likely only a matter of time before North Korea develops the capability to strike the U.S. mainland," he said. "Indeed, the DPRK has repeatedly claimed it plans to conduct such a strike. Given that rhetoric, the United States cannot idly stand by, nor can other members of this council who are within striking distance of North Korean missiles."
There is no reason to believe the North Koreans will change their behavior under the current multilateral sanctions framework, he said.
"For too long, the international community has been reactive in addressing North Korea," he said. "Those days must come to an end. Failing to act now on the most pressing security issue in the world may bring catastrophic consequences. We have said this before and it bears repeating. The policy of strategic patience is over."
"In light of the growing threat, the time has come for all of us to put new pressure on North Korea to abandon its dangerous path," he added. "I urge this council to act before North Korea does. We must work together to adopt a new approach and impose increased diplomatic and economic pressures on the North Korean regime."
The goal of the U.S. was not regime change, Tillerson said, but before the U.S. will even consider talks, North Korea must take "concrete steps" to cease its illegal weapons program.
To that end, he called on the U.N. member states to implement their commitments to earlier resolutions toward North Korea, called on countries to suspend or downgrade diplomatic relations with North Korea, and called for increasing North Korea's financial isolation through new sanctions on DPRK entities and individuals supporting their weapons and missile programs.
"We will not hesitate to sanction third country entities and individuals supporting the DPRK's illegal activities. We must bring maximum economic pressure by severing trade relationships that directly fund the DPRK's nuclear missile program," he said.
Tillerson specifically addressed China and its unique role given its dominant trade relationship with North Korea, encouraging them to continue to use economic leverage to pressure the country.