Preemptive military action in North Korea 'on the table' - US Secretary of State

Today, the USA might have threatened to invade North Korea. In a dramatic break from past policy, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said that the US policy of ‘strategic patience’ is over and suggested that continued weapons testing in Pyongyang could trigger a preemptive US invasion. 

When asked if military action was possible, the US Secretary of State said:

"Certainly we do not want to, for things to get to military conflict."

"If they elevate the threat of their weapons programme to a level that we believe requires action, then that option's on the table."

This is a major departure from previous US policy on the rogue state, which has focussed on sanctions and containment to varying success. Should they reflect the new White House line, US allies in the region may begin moving away from US allignment. 

It is believed that North Korea has limited nuclear weapons capabilities, and is able to reach some outlying US territories and military bases with short and medium ranged warheads- along with a series of US allies in the region.

North Korea’s weapons capabilities are however not believed to be advanced enough to reach Western Europe or mainland USA, although recent missile tests suggest that parts of Western Europe and some of the USA’s biggest cities could be within range in a matter of years. The UK is not thought to be in range of the more advanced missiles being tested by the North Korean military.

Regardless, the threat of military action on the peninsula is considered to come with a considerable amount of risk by many analysts. North Korea could use its nuclear capabilities to target US allies and has the largest standing army of any nation on earth.

The Secretary of State also highlighted China's failure to adhere to UN sanctions on North Korea, rendering them in many ways less effective:

"I don't believe we have ever fully achieved the maximum level of action that can be taken under the UN Security Council resolution with full participation of all countries,"

These comments are likely to increase tensions in the region, although it is not yet clear if they reflect the new administration's policy.