WASHINGTON (CN) – Stating its willingness to take military action, the White House hosted the U.S. Senate Wednesday afternoon for an unprecedented classified briefing on North Korea in response to nuclear threats from the volatile nation.
Buses transported all 100 senators for the briefing from the Trump administration’s top diplomatic, military and intelligence brass, who filled the senators in on a review of U.S. policy toward North Korea and U.S. options to contain the country’s growing nuclear capabilities.
The briefing came one week after Vice President Mike Pence warned North Korea at a press conference that “the era of strategic patience is over.”
The Trump administration has signaled a willingness to use military force to urge North Korea to abandon its nuclear program, a prospect that has put world leaders on edge.
Tensions have risen recently amid the North’s renewed threats of pre-emptive strikes to stop U.S. military action and fears that the North will conduct a sixth missile test.
The country conducted live-fire military drills Tuesday while North Korea’s U.N. mission said Wednesday that it would deploy its nuclear weapons in response to “a total war” with the U.S.
The mission added that the North would emerge victorious from a “death-defying struggle against the U.S. imperialists.”
In a show of force, the U.S. recently sent high-powered military vessels – including an aircraft carrier – to the region in an effort to deter the North from conducting further ballistic missile tests.
However, secretary of state Rex Tillerson, defense secretary James Mattis and director of national intelligence Dan Coats insisted in a joint statement issued after Wednesday’s hearing that the U.S. is seeking “peaceful denuclearization” of North Korea.
“The president’s approach aims to pressure North Korea into dismantling its nuclear, ballistic missile, and proliferation programs by tightening economic sanctions and pursuing diplomatic measures with our allies and regional partners,” they said.
The trio indicated they would engage members of the international community to increase pressure on the North Korean government to de-escalate its nuclear threats and return to negotiations.
However, they did not take the use of force off the table.
“We remain prepared to defend ourselves and our allies,” the statement said.
In testimony before the House Armed Services Committee Wednesday, Adm. Harry Harris, commander of U.S. Pacific Command, expressed doubt that North Korea would hold back if it acquired a nuclear weapon it could mount on a ballistic missile.