US President Donald Trump said on Friday he would not rule out a "military option" in Venezuela, a claim seemingly contradictory to the view of his top national security adviser.
"We have many options for Venezuela, including a possible military option, if necessary," Trump told reporters at his golf club retreat in New Jersey, northeast of the United States.
Meanwhile, Trump did not directly answer a question about whether the US troops would lead the potential operation.
"We don't talk about it," said Trump after his meeting at the golf club with State Secretary Rex Tillerson and Nikki Haley, US ambassador to the United Nations.
The Pentagon said after Trump's words that it had not received any order on Venezuela from the White House.
A week ago, Trump's top national security adviser H. R. McMaster said in a TV show that he did not see a military intervention from any outside source as likely.
"It's important for us to place responsibility for this catastrophe on (Venezuelan President Nicolas) Maduro's shoulders," McMaster said in an interview with MSNBC, an American television network.
Trump's remarks came amid escalating tensions between Washington and Caracas over Venezuela's National Constituent Assembly (ANC) which was formed after an election on July 30. The 545-member assembly, which has the rights to amend the constitution and reorganize the government, "aims to repair the malfunction" plaguing the country's governing system, according to Delcy Rodriguez, the recently elected president of the new legislative body.
The ANC has supreme power over all government branches, including the National Assembly, or Congress, which was under the opposition's control.
Maduro, who proposed the ANC in May, vowed on Thursday to abide by any decisions made by the body.
The right-wing opposition Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD) boycotted the initiative and refused to participate in the July 30 election, claiming it would only consolidate the power of the ruling socialist party.
The power struggle between the government and the opposition has led to months of violent confrontations that have left more than 100 people dead, including protesters, government supporters and security forces.
The US government, which backs the opposition coalition, condemned the election for the ANC, claiming it "undermines the Venezuelan people's right to self-determination."
The United States has joined Mexico, Colombia and Panama in saying that they would not recognize the voting results.
Elias Jaua, head of the Presidential Commission for the National Constituent Assembly, said that the ANC did not need the recognition of "any government."
After the election, the United States slapped a string of sanctions on Venezuelan individuals involved in the creation of the ANC, including Maduro, who later rebuffed the measure that targeted him personally.
On Aug. 4, the ANC opened for its first session. It created a truth commission two days later to investigate the circumstances of the deaths that have occurred during anti-government protests.
On Friday, the new legislative body announced the creation of an economic commission to tackle the country's economic and development problems.