WASHINGTON – The consequences of a nuclear armed North Korea could be disastrous, warned former Secretaries of State Henry Kissinger and George Shultz, with one calling it the most “urgent” threat facing the United States.

Testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee Thursday, Kissinger, who served as Secretary of State for both the Nixon and Ford Administrations, said the current global situation is “unprecedented.”

“What is occurring now is more than a coincidence,” Kissinger said. “It’s a systemic failure of world order.”

Shultz, who served as Secretary of State under President Ronald Reagan, said the US must act decisively to roll back North Korea’s nuclear program.

Nuclear proliferation is a “concern we must have,” said Schultz. “We must work with Russia and China to achieve denuclearization” in the Korean peninsula.

The Trump administration has sent mixed messages in its approach to the Korean crisis. For his part, the president tweeted in January that he “too has a Nuclear Button, but it is a much bigger and more powerful one” than North Korea’s.

But in December Secretary of State Rex Tillerson struck a more conciliatory tone, saying, the US is ready to open diplomatic talks “without precondition.”

According to Mira Rapp-Hooper, senior research scholar in the China Center at Yale Law School, “as far as we know the Trump administration is not preparing for diplomatic talks.” Instead, she says, they seem to be exploring conventional military options.

At the committee hearing, Kissinger said “the temptation to deal a preemptive strike is strong.” However, the former Secretary cautioned that the consequences of a war with North Korea would be disastrous for the US, with the potential to escalate into full blown nuclear conflict.

For former Secretary Shultz, that future must be avoided at all costs. “When you put your hand on the nuclear button,” said Shultz, “you’re not President anymore. You’re God.”