The US would consider military action against North Korea if it was provoked, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Friday.
Speaking in Seoul at a joint press conference with South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se, Tillerson said Washington's policy of "strategic patience" had ended.
"Certainly, we do not want things to get to a military conflict... but obviously if North Korea takes actions that threatens the South Korean forces or our own forces, then that would be met with an appropriate response," he said, reports CNN.
"If they elevate the threat of their weapons programme to a level that we believe that requires action, that option is on the table," Tillerson added.
The Secretary of State is on a three-country tour to the region amid heightened tensions on the Korean peninsula following recent North Korea missile launches, and fears it's preparing for another nuclear test.
In Tokyo Thursday, Tillerson said efforts over the past 20 years to halt North Korea's nuclear development had failed.
He said it was time for a new policy on North Korea, but released no details. It is clear that he sees Beijing, where he will fly to Saturday, as a key part of Washington's new approach.
A senior Chinese official informed the agency this week that Beijing plans to present its own plan to Tillerson during his visit.
However, Tillerson dismissed suggestions by Beijing that the US should drop joint military exercises with South Korea as a show of good faith to Pyongyang. Washington did think "not believe that conditions are right to engage in any talks at this time."
"Conditions must change before there are any scope for talks to resume, whether they are five party or six party," he said.
Tillerson called on China to give up its opposition to the Terminal High Altitude Area Defence (THAAD) system or act to "address the threat that makes THAAD necessary." The missile defence system is in the process of being deployed in the country's south.
He also urged Beijing to drop any retaliatory action against South Korea, amid allegations businesses and the tourism industry is being punished for Seoul's stance on the issue.
"(Beijing's) economic retaliation against South Korea is inappropriate and troubling," Tillerson said.