Tillerson on North Korea: 'Our goal is not regime change'

Tillerson on North Korea: 'Our goal is not regime change'
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Secretary of State Rex TillersonRex Wayne TillersonOvernight Defense: Trump recognizes Jerusalem as Israel's capital | Mattis, Tillerson reportedly opposed move | Pentagon admits 2,000 US troops are in Syria | Trump calls on Saudis to 'immediately' lift Yemen blockade Trump has yet to name ambassadors to key nations in Mideast Mattis, Tillerson warned Trump of security concerns in Israel embassy move MORE on Friday called on the United Nations to tighten pressure on North Korea to dismantle its weapons programs, warning that a failure to do so could have "catastrophic consequences."

"For too long the international community has been reactive in addressing North Korea," Tillerson said at a meeting of the U.N. Security Council. "Those days must come to an end. Failing to act now on the most pressing security issue in the world may bring catastrophic consequences."

The secretary of State also sought to dismiss concerns that the U.S. could try to pursue regime change in North Korea, and said that the reclusive country would be rewarded for their cooperation in ending their nuclear and missiles programs. 

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"Our goal is not regime change, nor do we desire to threaten the North Korean people or destabilize the Asia Pacific region," Tillerson said.

"Since 1995, the U.S. has provided 1.3 billion in aide to North Korea, and we look forward to resuming our contributions once [the country] dismantles weapons programs," he added.

Tensions between the U.S. and North Korea have flared in recent weeks amid heightened concerns over Pyongyang's rapidly advancing weapons programs and continued threats to U.S. allies in the region, notably Japan and South Korea. 

The U.S. earlier this month said that it would send a U.S. Navy strike group toward the Korean Peninsula in an attempt to deter the country's aggression. But the move was fiercely condemned as an act of aggression by Pyongyang.

Top U.S. officials have stressed the importance of a diplomatic resolution to the ongoing tensions, but have maintained that a military option is still on the table. President TrumpDonald John TrumpHouse Democrat slams Donald Trump Jr. for ‘serious case of amnesia’ after testimony Skier Lindsey Vonn: I don’t want to represent Trump at Olympics Poll: 4 in 10 Republicans think senior Trump advisers had improper dealings with Russia MORE told Reuters on Thursday that a "major, major conflict" with North Korea was possible, and that, while he would pursue a peaceful solution, it would be "very difficult."

At the Security Council meeting on Friday, Tillerson echoed Vice President Pence's previous statements that the U.S. policy of "strategic patience" had been largely ineffective in dealing with North Korea, and called for new sanctions on Pyongyang.

"In light of the growing threat, the time has come for all of us to put new pressure on North Korea to abandon this dangerous path," he said. "I urge this council to act before North Korea does."