By Jeff Mason and Michael Martina
WASHINGTON/BEIJING (Reuters) – President Donald Trump warned on Wednesday that the United States would no longer tolerate North Korea’s actions but said the use of military force against Pyongyang will not be his “first choice.”
His comment appeared to be in line with classified briefings to Congress in which Trump’s top national security aides – Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Dan Coats, the director of national intelligence – stressed the search for a diplomatic solution to the crisis, lawmakers said.
A senior administration official, meanwhile, said that the White House has set aside for now consideration of exiting a free trade pact with South Korea, a move being contemplated by Trump that could have complicated relations with Seoul.
In a flurry of phone calls with world leaders days after North Korea’s sixth and most powerful nuclear test, Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping committed to “take further action with the goal of achieving the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula,” the White House said.
“President Xi would like to do something. We’ll see whether or not he can do it. But we will not be putting up with what’s happening in North Korea,” Trump told reporters, though he offered no specifics.
“I believe that President Xi agrees with me 100 percent,” he added.
Asked whether he was considering a military response to North Korea, Trump said: “Certainly, that’s not our first choice, but we will see what happens.”
Xi, who has been under pressure from Trump to do more to help curb North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs, told the U.S. president during their 45-minute call that the North Korean issue must be resolved through “dialogue and consultation.”
The focus on negotiations by China, North Korea’s main trading partner, contrasted with Trump’s assertions over the last few days that now was not the time for talks with North Korea while pressing instead for increased international pressure on Pyongyang.
The United States and South Korea have asked the United Nations to consider tough new sanctions on North Korea after its nuclear test on Sunday that Pyongyang said was an advanced hydrogen bomb.
Late on Wednesday, U.S. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin indicated that if the U.N. Security Council fails to approve sufficiently strong measures, Trump could authorize him to impose sanctions on any country or entity that trades with North Korea.
“We believe that…