Mattis and Tillerson unite, focus on 'denuclearization' in op-ed on North Korea

Two of President Trump's most powerful Cabinet members are looking to shift tact in their approach to handling North Korea.

Striking a united front, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis issued a joint op-ed with the Wall Street Journal on Monday, saying they're "holding Pyongyang to account."

The pair attempt to assure North Korea they're not seeking a "regime change or reunification of Korea," but a denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

Countering Trump's "locked and loaded" and "fire and fury" rhetoric, the duo write they're not looking for an excuse to station U.S. troops along the border nor do they have any "desire to inflict harm on the long-suffering North Korean people, who are distinct from the hostile regime in Pyongyang."

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The pair also praise China for issuing an order to carry out increased economic sanctions against their neighbor, an unprecedented move. Before China's announcement Monday, it had been unclear when -- if ever -- those import bans would be implemented.

But Tillerson and Mattis add China's dissatisfaction over deploying the THAAD missile defense system is "unrealistic."

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China's reluctant move against North Korea likely comes in response to reports Trump was considering issuing a probe into China's trade practice, which could lead to implementing sanctions against Beijing.

In a final warning, Tillerson and Mattis write note any nuclear attack will be met with an "effective and overwhelming response."