"Save your energy Rex, we'll do what has to be done!" he added, apparently suggesting that some kind of non-diplomatic option was back on the table.
Instead, Mattis said, the USA diplomatic mission is going through the United Nations to pressure North Korea with sanctions, to engage with China-which has direct diplomatic channels to North Korea-to also pressure the regime, and to "probe" for opportunities that would make engagement with North Korea worthwhile.
According to Reuters, a Russian company began routing North Korean internet traffic this month, giving Pyongyang a second connection with the outside world besides China. North Korea's nuclear weapon and missile tests gave the USA justification to deploy the THAAD anti-missile system in South Korea, a system China regards as a threat to its national security.
Pyongyang's goal, they say, is to gain recognition as a major nuclear power and eventually negotiate a deal with the United States that sees American forces leave the Korean peninsula.
"The last person who wants conflict on the [Korean Peninsula] is Kim Jong-un", said Yong Suk Lee, the deputy assistant director of the CIA's Korea Mission Center - a special outfit the agency created in May to address the increased nuclear and ballistic missile threat from Pyongyang.
The authorities in a northeastern Chinese border city have secretly warned local firms they will be slapped with fines if they newly hire North Korean workers in violation of United Nations sanctions, amounting to 5,000 yuan ($750) per worker, sources familiar with the situation said Wednesday.
"All we are doing is probing, we are not talking with them ..."
Concerns about a nuclear conflict in North Asia have increased as Kim accelerates his program of acquiring weapons capable of hitting the continental U.S., and as Trump threatens pre-emptive military action.
"The two of us have also maintained a good working relationship and personal friendship", Xi said in comments in front of reporters. "Donald Trump didn't say that!"
There are mixed signals from the current administration regarding what diplomatic strategies it's deploying with North Korea. "[The U.S.] can probably get something done without China". The chemist said earlier Thursday he found degraded VX on Indonesian suspect Siti Aisyah's clothing and other witnesses have said Kim died of acute VX poisoning.
The less charitable, equally worrying, explanation for the contradictory messages is that America's top diplomat simply misspoke, and the plan is exactly what it looks like: name-calling, and trying to out-threaten North Korea into submission, while turning the economic screws.
The United States composed the resolution and is also collaborating with South Korea for military drills. Trump said the only way for North Korea to continue as a nation is too dismantle their nuclear arsenal.
The least regular of these may be the direct talks, which Rex Tillerson pointed to just a few days ago, only to be told by his boss that it was a waste of his time. The State Department also confirmed that though the communication lines remain open, North Korea showed no interest in any discussion in relation to giving up their nuclear arsenal.