A senior White House official issued a dire warning to reporters Tuesday on the state of North Korea's nuclear program, declaring "the clock has now run out and all options are on the table."
"The clock has now run out, and all options are on the table," the official said, pointing to the failure of successive administration's efforts to negotiate an end to North Korea's nuclear program.
The comments came as two senior White House officials briefed reporters ahead of President Donald Trump's meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping later this week in Florida. The briefing took place on the condition of anonymity.
US officials have grown increasingly wary of the pace of North Korea's nuclear and ballistic missile programs as the rogue regime has test-fired multiple ballistic missiles at a rapid clip in the first months of this year.
North Korea has successfully detonated nuclear weapons in the past, but experts say the country has yet to develop the technology to equip a ballistic missile with a nuclear warhead.
Trump has repeatedly said he plans to urge China to use its influence over North Korea to help halt its nuclear program, but warned in a recent Financial Times interview that he would act to stop North Korea with or without China's cooperation.
"China has great influence over North Korea. And China will either decide to help us with North Korea, or they won't. And if they do that will be very good for China, and if they don't it won't be good for anyone," Trump said. "If China is not going to solve North Korea, we will. That is all I am telling you."
The senior White House official who issued Tuesday's ominous missive also said North Korea is a "matter of urgent interest for the President and the administration as a whole" and emphasized that "all options are on the table."
Those options could include stepped up economic sanctions -- including against Chinese entities that do business with North Korea -- cyberattacks or military action.
Earlier Tuesday, Gen. John Hyten, the commander of US Strategic Command, which oversees US nuclear weapons and missile defense forces, contradicted Trump, saying China was critical to solving the North Korea nuclear challenge.
"Any solution to the North Korean problem has to involve China," Hyten told the Senate Armed Services Committee.
His comments come days after the publication of the Trump interview.
Hyten added that while he believed Beijing's involvement was critical, he said that he will provide military options to the president to deal with the threat from North Korea.
"I'll provide those military options. So that's my job but I look at it from a strategic perspective and I can't see a solution that doesn't involve China."
"China is the definition of North Korea's backyard," Hyten told the committee, saying that the close economic links between Pyongyang and Beijing made China a pivotal player in curbing North Korea's nuclear ambitions.
"It's hard for me to see a solution without China," he added.