US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has declared an end to Washington’s policy of strategic patience with North Korea, warning Pyongyang that a military option was “on the table” if North Korea continues to ratchet up its military threats.

“Let me be very clear: the policy of strategic patience has ended. We are exploring a new range of security and diplomatic measures. All options are on the table,” Mr Tillerson told a news conference in Seoul on Friday, in his first Asian visit as secretary of state.

He said Washington was developing a “comprehensive set of capabilities” to deal with the isolated communist country, adding that any North Korean actions that threaten South Korea and US troops stationed in the South would be met with “an appropriate response.”

“If they elevate the threat of their weapons programme to a level that we believe requires action, that option is on the table,” Mr Tillerson said when asked about military action.

He ruled out a negotiated freeze of Pyongyang’s nuclear programmes, saying that conditions were not yet “ripe” to resume talks with North Korea. Instead, he called for tougher international sanctions against Pyongyang, saying that current UN sanctions on North Korea have not yet reached the “maximum level.”

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