Sept. 22 (UPI) -- U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Friday any U.S. military decision against North Korea in the event of a hydrogen bomb explosion would "ultimately" be up to U.S. President Donald Trump.
Tillerson, who defended Trump's remarks at the United Nations General Assembly, said the decision of military action rests with the president, who has said the United States could "totally destroy North Korea" if forced to defend itself and allies.
The top U.S. diplomat made the statement during an interview on ABC's Good Morning America on Friday.
"Kim Jong Un of North Korea, who is obviously a madman who doesn't mind starving or killing his people, will be tested like never before!" Trump tweeted, after North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho told reporters North Korea could test the "most powerful" hydrogen bomb in the Pacific Ocean.
Kim Jong Un of North Korea, who is obviously a madman who doesn't mind starving or killing his people, will be tested like never before!- Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 22, 2017
When asked whether the United States would respond to an unprecedented provocation that could cause fatal damage to ships, planes and submarines in the Pacific, Tillerson said the decision is not up to the State Department.
"That will be the president's decision," Tillerson said. "There is assembled on a standing basis a National Security Council that meets on each of these issues to advise the president. Ultimately it will be his decision."
He added, "The president obviously takes the responsibility of the security of the American people very seriously."
"But we're not in this alone. We have developed strong allies and strong alliances internationally."
Trump announced new secondary sanctions on entities and individuals doing business with North Korea on Thursday.