Kerry: Trump not pursuing 'smart' or 'clever' plan on North Korea
© Getty Images

Former Secretary of State John KerryJohn Forbes KerryOvernight Defense: Pompeo clears Senate panel, on track for confirmation | Retired officers oppose Haspel for CIA director | Iran, Syria on agenda for Macron visit Senate must save itself by confirming Mike Pompeo Pompeo faces pivotal vote MORE said Tuesday that the Trump administration has not yet pursued the kind of diplomacy needed to avoid an all-out conflict with North Korea.

In a panel discussion in Washington on nuclear weapons and deterrents, the former Obama administration official said that President Trump appeared at times to be hurtling toward a confrontation with North Korea while putting diplomacy on the back burner.

"It may be that in the end we are left no choice [but to go to war]," Kerry said at the Ignatius Forum. "But we are not pursuing a smart, clever, well thought-through, well-organized, strategic approach to diplomacy to try to do our best to avoid that ultimate choice."

ADVERTISEMENT

Kerry also said that Trump has not pressed Beijing hard enough to rein in North Korea, insisting that China, Russia and U.S. partners in the region could do more to assist diplomatic efforts to curb Pyongyang's nuclear ambitions.

Kerry's comments came hours after North Korea conducted its latest missile test, firing what officials believe to be an intercontinental ballistic missile into the Sea of Japan. 

The test was Pyongyang's first in more than two months, and reportedly flew longer and higher than any rocket previously launched by North Korea.

Trump has repeatedly said that military options for dealing with North Korea remain on the table. After the test on Tuesday, Trump said that it was a "situation we will handle."

Secretary of State Rex TillersonRex Wayne TillersonRand's reversal advances Pompeo Frequent Trump critics NY Daily News, USA Today editorial boards back Pompeo Sarah Sanders: Dems have to decide if they love the US more than they hate Trump MORE said that the U.S. is still committed to pursuing a diplomatic solution to North Korea's weapons programs.

“The United States remains committed to finding a peaceful path to denuclearization and to ending belligerent actions by North Korea," he said.