The US's top military officer has said a military solution to the North Korean missile threat would be "horrific" but allowing Pyongyang to develop the capability to launch a nuclear attack on the United States is "unimaginable".
The chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, Marine Corps General Joseph Dunford, told reporters in Beijing that President Donald Trump directly has "told us to develop credible viable military options and that's exactly what we're doing".
Gen Dunford was responding to questions about comments by Mr Trump's chief strategist, Steve Bannon, in an interview published on Wednesday.
Mr Bannon was quoted as saying there is no military solution to the threat posed by North Korea and its nuclear ambitions, despite the president's recent pledge to answer further aggression with "fire and fury".
"There's no military solution (to North Korea's nuclear threats), forget it," Mr Bannon said in the interview. "Until somebody solves the part of the equation that shows me that 10 million people in Seoul don't die in the first 30 minutes from conventional weapons, I don't know what you're talking about, there's no military solution here, they got us."
In Beijing, Gen. Dunford said it is "absolutely horrific if there would be a military solution to this problem, there's no question about it".
But, he added, "what's unimaginable is allowing KJU (North Korean leader Kim Jong Un) to develop ballistic missiles with a nuclear warhead that can threaten the United States and continue to threaten the region".
Gen. Dunford has been in Asia this week, visiting South Korea, Japan and China.
In China, he has met his Chinese counterpart Fang Fenghui, chief of the People's Liberation Army's joint staff department.
On Thursday he also met Fan Changlong, vice chairman of the ruling Communist Party's Central Military Commission, and Yang Jiechi, China's top diplomat.