Tillerson says United States prepared to use force against N Korea

South Korean President Moon Jae-in has repeatedly urged North Korea not to launch a nuclear ICBM

A day after the United States and Japan both stepped up defence cooperation with the two allies moving to strengthen their partnership as tensions in East Asia remain high over North Korea's nuclear threat, South Korea and the USA are gearing up for war games to counter any potential threat from Pyongyang.

Speaking at a news conference jointly addressed by US Defence Secretary James Mattis, Japanese Foreign minister Taro Kono and Defence minister Itsunori Onodera, Tillerson said the country was prepared to meet any eventuality from the North Koreans, and sought to make it clear that use of the force was not the "preferred pathway" of the US.

"This is a very important time for security in the region and of course we are mostly focused on the threat coming out of North Korea", Dunford said, referring to the bilateral "two-plus-two" meeting of foreign affairs and defense chiefs.

In view of North Korea's unpredictable behaviour, the United States and Japan have agreed to advance their multilateral security and defence cooperation with India, South Korea and Australia. It has even test fired missiles into Sea of Japan in the past.

"In light of the threat of North Korea, the four of us confirmed the importance of the unwavering United States commitment to extended deterrence", he added.

The United States and its allies in East Asia have ratcheted up their rhetoric against North Korea in the recent weeks following repeated North Korean missile tests.

Meanwhile, the USA has also planned joint drills with South Korea.

Grossman said, "So the Atlantic World media is asking, 'Where is North Korea leader Kim Jong-un?'"

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These new or expanded areas will include defence equipment and technology cooperation, as well as intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance. In Washington, the Japanese and US governments held a Security Consultative Committee meeting, known as two-plus-two security talks, comprising their foreign and defense chiefs.

As the top US diplomat, Tillerson said Washington would continue diplomatic efforts "first and foremost", but "it is only prudent" that military action remains a choice. The Japanese-administered Senkaku Islands are also claimed by China and Taiwan.

Last week, US President Donald Trump threatened North Korea with American "fire and fury", and later doubled down on his threat, saying the military option against North Korea was "locked and loaded". On the threat of ballistic missiles, as an alliance, we will strengthen our defense and capabilities to respond.

Japan is likely to increase its defence spending at a faster pace in its next five-year plan from April 2019 than the annual 0.8 percent average rise in its current mid-term plan, the Nikkei business daily reported on Friday.

He said that the path of provocations and threats chosen by North Korea was not in the best interests of any nation.

Defense officials have said such a rise is desirable, but Finance Ministry officials are cautious because of Tokyo's mammoth public debt.

"Installing Thaad launchers on the Korean Peninsula and conducting joint military exercises are defensive preparations against the acute threat of military actions directed against the US, our allies and other nations".

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