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."

RELATED: A look at North Korea's July 2017 missile test

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A look at North Korea's July 2017 missile test
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A look at North Korea's July 2017 missile test
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un guides the second test-fire of intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) Hwasong-14 in this undated picture provided by KCNA in Pyongyang on July 29, 2017. KCNA via Reuters ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. REUTERS IS UNABLE TO INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THIS IMAGE. SOUTH KOREA OUT. NO THIRD PARTY SALES. NOT FOR USE BY REUTERS THIRD PARTY DISTRIBUTORS.� TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) Hwasong-14 is pictured during its second test-fire in this undated picture provided by KCNA in Pyongyang on July 29, 2017. KCNA via Reuters ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. REUTERS IS UNABLE TO INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THIS IMAGE. SOUTH KOREA OUT. NO THIRD PARTY SALES. NOT FOR USE BY REUTERS THIRD PARTY DISTRIBUTORS.� TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
People watch news report showing North Korea's Hwasong-14 missile launch on electronic screen at Pyongyang station, North Korea in this photo taken by Kyodo on July 29, 2017. Mandatory credit Kyodo/via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. MANDATORY CREDIT. JAPAN OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN JAPAN.
The Central Committee and the Central Military Commission of the Workers' Party of Korea hold a banquet at the Mokran House in celebration of the second successful test-fire of intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM) Hwasong-14, in this undated picture provided by KCNA in Pyongyang on July 30, 2017. KCNA/via Reuters ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. REUTERS IS UNABLE TO INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THIS IMAGE. SOUTH KOREA OUT. NO THIRD PARTY SALES. NOT FOR USE BY REUTERS THIRD PARTY DISTRIBUTORS.
The Central Committee and the Central Military Commission of the Workers' Party of Korea hold a banquet at the Mokran House in celebration of the second successful test-fire of intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM) Hwasong-14, in this undated picture provided by KCNA in Pyongyang on July 30, 2017. KCNA/via Reuters ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. REUTERS IS UNABLE TO INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THIS IMAGE. SOUTH KOREA OUT. NO THIRD PARTY SALES. NOT FOR USE BY REUTERS THIRD PARTY DISTRIBUTORS.
Coverage of an ICBM missile test is displayed on a screen in a public square in Pyongyang on July 29, 2017. Kim Jong-Un boasted of North Korea's ability to strike any target in the US after a second ICBM test that weapons experts said on July 29 could even bring New York into range - in a potent challenge to President Donald Trump. / AFP PHOTO / Kim Won-Jin (Photo credit should read KIM WON-JIN/AFP/Getty Images)
A man and woman watch coverage of an ICBM missile test displayed on a screen in a public square in Pyongyang on July 29, 2017. Kim Jong-Un boasted of North Korea's ability to strike any target in the US after a second ICBM test that weapons experts said on July 29 could even bring New York into range - in a potent challenge to President Donald Trump. / AFP PHOTO / Kim Won-Jin (Photo credit should read KIM WON-JIN/AFP/Getty Images)
In this photo taken on July 29, 2017, a woman holding a mock rifle stands at a bus stop in Pyongyang. North Korea said July 30 its latest ICBM test was a 'warning' targeting the US for its efforts to slap new sanctions on Pyongyang and threatened a counter-strike if provoked militarily by Washington. / AFP PHOTO / Ed JONES (Photo credit should read ED JONES/AFP/Getty Images)
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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."

SEE ALSO: North Korea held massive public rallies last week, and the pictures are daunting

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."

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