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Tillerson pushes back on Bannon claim of no 'military solution' for North Korea
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Thursday dismissed claims from White House chief strategist Stephen Bannon that there is no military solution to the conflict with North Korea.
"I don't really have a comment on what Mr. Bannon's remarks were in that particular interview. I read those," Tillerson said at the State Department following a meeting with Japanese national security officials.
"I think we have been quite clear as to what the policy and posture towards North Korea is," he maintained.
In an interview published Wednesday by the American Prospect, Bannon said there is no military solution to North Korea's nuclear threats.
"Until somebody solves the part of the equation that shows me that 10 million people in Seoul don't die in the first 30 minutes from conventional weapons, I don't know what you're talking about, there's no military solution here, they got us," Bannon said.
The comments break from Trump's message that the U.S. would respond with "fire and fury" to North Korean aggression. Trump's comments followed the country announcing it was developing a plan to shoot missiles toward the U.S. territory of Guam.
Last week Trump made clear he is not backing down from his threats to punish North Korea. Asked if the U.S. will go to war with North Korea, the president responded, "I think you know the answer to that."
"I think the president just felt it was necessary to remind the regime of what the consequences for them would be if they chose to carry out those threats," Tillerson said.
He added that the State and Defense departments' stance on a possible military outcome "has been endorsed by the president," though it is "not our preferred pathway."
"Obviously, any diplomatic effort in any situation where you have this level of threat that we're confronted with, a threat of proportions that none of us like to contemplate, has to be backed by a strong military consequence if North Korea chooses wrongly," he said.
Defense Secretary James Mattis, who spoke alongside Tillerson and their Japanese counterparts on Thursday, also responded to the comments.
"I can just assure you that, in close collaboration with our allies, there are strong military consequences if [North Korea] initiates hostilities," Mattis confirmed.
In addition, Tillerson said the United States is working with ally and partner countries to pressure North Korea to "engage in talks with an understanding that these talks will lead to a different conclusion than talks of the past."
"They will realize the level of isolation they find themselves in, and that the future that they will face with that level of isolation is bleak and will only become bleaker if they continue this pathway," he said.