The United States will continue its diplomatic efforts to settle the nuclear crisis on the Korean Peninsula until the “first bomb drops,” US State Secretary Rex Tillerson said on Monday.

“I’m gonna use all the time available to me, our diplomatic efforts will continue until that first bomb drops. My job is to never have a reason for the first bomb to drop. And we don’t know precisely how much time is left on the clock,” Tillerson said in an interview with the broadcaster, while answering the question regarding Corker’s statement.

Washington is alarmed by Pyongyang’s threats that its missiles could reach US soil, the official noted.

“It does make us nervous. It also stiffens our resolve. That kind of a threat to the American people by a regime like this is not acceptable,” Tillerson underlined.

Earlier, US Senator Bob Corker said that Tillerson has up to 10 months to resolve the nuclear crisis or otherwise the United States “is going to be facing one of the greatest military decisions,” according to the CBS broadcaster.

Tensions between the United States and North Korea had been mounting throughout 2017 as Pyongyang continued to conduct nuclear and ballistic missile tests, while Washington amassed troops and military assets in close proximity to North Korea and conducted military exercises in the area.

Meanwhile, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said during the interview that the United States is keeping its communication channels with North Korea “open” in order to trace Pyongyang’s readiness for talks on the settlement of the nuclear crisis.

“My job as chief diplomat is to ensure that the North Koreans know we keep our channels open, I’m listening. I’m not sending a lotta messages back ’cause there’s nothing to say to them at this point. So I’m listening for you [North Korea] to tell me you are ready to talk,” Tillerson said in an interview with the CBS broadcaster, aired on Sunday.

In regards to how Washington is going to understand when Pyongyang is ready to negotiate, the secretary of state said that the North Korean leadership “will tell me.”

“We receive messages from them and I think it will be very explicit as to how we want to have that first conversation,” Tillerson told the broadcaster.

The White House has been pushing for North Korea to take steps to stop the development of nuclear warheads and intercontinental ballistic missiles. During the visit to the Winter Games in the South Korean city of Pyeongchang earlier in the month, US Vice President Mike Pence emphasized that Washington would continue to tighten sanctions on North Korea and pressure other nations to do likewise, while not ruling out direct US-North Korean talks if requested by Pyongyang.

North Korea has faced several rounds of sanctions over its nuclear and ballistic missile tests, conducted in violation of the UN Security Council’s (UNSC) resolutions. In response to these activities, in August, the UNSC imposed sanctions on Pyongyang targeting exports of coal, iron ore, lead and seafood from the Asian nation to the UN member states. In December, new sanctions against North Korea were imposed over the country’s continuing missile tests.

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