08:06 GMT26 February 2021
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    Joseph Yun, the US special representative to North Korea, told reporters in Tokyo that the US was far from using military force on the Korean Peninsula.

    "Our policy is very much for the peaceful resolution of the North Korean nuclear crisis. We've said over and over again that what we want to see is dialogue," Yun said, according to Reuters.

    "Having said that, we also have said that all options are on the table and by all options, it has to include military options. I don't believe we are close to it."

    Reporters also asked Yun about the ongoing talks between North and South Korea. Yun called them a step in the right direction, but added that any Pyongyang-Washington talks would have to "be about steps North Korea would take toward denuclearization."

    While tensions between the two Koreas have broken somewhat as the nations agreed to march under the same flag during February's Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, tensions between the US and North Korea remain sky-high, as they have been since April 2017.

    As the US does not have a formal diplomatic relationship with North Korea, the US president instead appoints a "special representative" to coordinate and implement US policy towards Pyongyang. This makes Yun a knowledgeable person on the status of US diplomacy — but he has little sway over US policy.

    Yun's superior, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, attracted controversy when asked by reporters earlier in January about the possibility of a "limited" or "strategic" strike against North Korean nuclear sites. Tillerson replied that "we all need to be very sober and clear-eyed about the current situation."

    "We have to recognize that the threat is growing and that if North Korea does not choose the pathway of engagement, discussion, negotiation then they themselves will trigger an option," he said.

    Military leaders, on the other hand, have admitted that the US military was in the midst of planning out and drilling for the prospect of war with North Korea. US Marine Corps commandant Gen. Robert Neller told the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in late January, "I think the biggest thing everybody's done is just look at, get familiar with the geography, get familiar with the plans and do some logistical preparation — that's just prudent."

    So while US leaders have been virtually unanimous that military options are their last resort to resolve the crisis, how close they are to using that last resort varies from official to official, and from week to week.

    The issue was brought up during US President Donald Trump's State of the Union speech. "North Korea's reckless pursuit of nuclear missiles could very soon threaten our homeland," he said. "We are waging a campaign of maximum pressure to prevent that from happening."

    "Past experience has taught us that complacency and concessions only invite aggression and provocation. I will not repeat the mistakes of past administrations that got us into this dangerous position."


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    diplomacy, North Korea's nuclear program, Donald Trump, Robert Neller, Rex Tillerson, Joseph Yun, South Korea, Democratic Republic of North Korea (DPRK)
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