After weeks of speculation that a US attack on North Korea could be imminent, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who played a substantial role in the rhetoric that fueled that belief, sought to play down the idea of an immediate attack, saying that the US is willing to be patient and will not strike so long as the threat is considered “manageable.”
This is in stark contrast to official statements in the past month, with Tillerson having declared diplomacy to have failed, and Vice President Mike Pence having declared the era of patience “over” weeks ago. The US continues to add warships, and anti-missile systems to the theater of operations too, with the Pentagon having just warned Congress of the potential for large-scale consequences for a new Korean War.
Tillerson went on to declare North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un to be a “ruthless murderer,” but insisted he was “not insane” and has been making “rational choices.” The US expects this to ultimately result in a choice to capitulate to US demands.
Pacific Commander Admiral Harry Harris sure doesn’t seem to be on the same page about the situation being well in hand, insisting in his own comments that the situation on the Korean Peninsula is the worst he’s seen, insisting that the US mustn’t take the option of invading North Korea off the table.
Whether this represents a split within the administration on what they intend to do, or just deliberate ambiguity is unclear, though President Trump’s repeated pledges to “take care of” North Korea have put the whole region on alert, and fear of a war about to happen have been echoed by nations like China and Russia as well, so it isn’t just Americans reading too much into the administration’s comments.