Visiting U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson indicated Thursday in Tokyo that Washington is ready to toughen its diplomatic approach toward North Korea, noting the futility over the past two decades of trying to convince it to abandon its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs.
"North Korea and its people need not fear the United States or their neighbours in the region who seek only to live in peace with North Korea", he said, suggesting that criticism was aimed at the regime in Pyongyang.
It really is a reflection of the significance you, Secretary Tillerson, put on the Japan-U.S. alliance and I very much appreciate it.
"I will have conversations with China on further actions it can take", Tillerson said. Trump's proposed spending cuts will likely face an uphill battle in Congress, and several prominent Republicans have already spoken out against major cuts at the State Department.
The decision to travel on a smaller aircraft was Tillerson's, Toner said, and was in part an effort to save money.
Tillerson is on his first official trip to Asia. He also emphasized the importance of trilateral cooperation between the US, Japan and South Korea.
Topping their agenda was North Korea's launch last week of a salvo of four missiles, one of which came down in waters just 320km (200 miles) off Japan's coast.
Tillerson will visit Japan and South Korea before heading to Beijing, where he is expected to firm up the USA visit by Chinese President Xi Jinping next month to meet Trump as the leaders of the word's two largest economies.
While in Tokyo, Tillerson was also scheduled to meet Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who forged a bond with President Trump during his visit to Washington last month.
"We look to China to fulfil its obligations and fully implement the sanctions called for" in United Nations resolutions, Tillerson said in response to a question about how it will get China on the same page as the United States when it comes to North Korea.
"We expect that the diplomatic press corps will be afforded access to Secretary Tillerson equal to that given to the reporter on the plane", the correspondents association said in its statement.
This after recent comments in which China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi implied the USA and North Korea were equally at fault and moving towards a "head-on collision". US officials are reviewing options that could include a pre-emptive military strike and renewed talks with North Korea.
FILE - Flags of China and North Korea are seen outside a closed Korean Restaurant in Ningbo, Zhejiang province, China, April 12, 2016.
Experts say it could have a nuclear-tipped missile that could reach the United States within a few years.