The index touched a low of 2,339.06 points during the session.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 36.64 points, or 0.17 percent, to end at 22,048.7, the S&P 500 lost 0.9 point, or 0.04 percent, to 2,474.02 and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 18.13 points, or 0.28 percent, to 6,352.33.
After a dip of as much as 0.52 percent earlier in the day, investors appeared to take some comfort in Tillerson's comments, said Richard Steinberg, managing director at HighTower Advisors in NY. The sell-off was widespread, with shares in financial and consumer companies leading the declines.
Japan's core machinery orders unexpectedly fell for a third straight month in June, underscoring companies' reluctance to boost spending and conflicting with recent signs that the economic recovery is gathering momentum. Aside from the geopolitical drama, investors are digesting a rise in the U.K.'s trade deficit in June, as well as disappointing housing data for the region in July.
"Right now the market is viewing it as a lot of saber-rattling and a lot of smoke, but not much fire", said Darrell Cronk, president of Wells Fargo Investment Institute.
News late Tuesday that North Korea was reviewing plans for an attack on USA military assets on the island of Guam came just hours after President Trump had warned that continued threats would be met "with fire and fury like the world has never seen". The comments follow reports that North Korea has mastered a crucial technology needed to strike the United States with a nuclear missile. Stocks have retreated while assets perceived as havens, such as gold, the Japanese yen and US government bonds, have strengthened. But the moves were modest. Despite the decent set of numbers for the first-six months, their share are down 1.5% on the day.
Prices for the benchmark 10-year Treasury note leaped, lowering yields to 2.23% from Wednesday's 2.25%.
While the tough talk about the potential for war is scary, investors have heard it many times before.
Following Trump's remarks, North Korea on Wednesday said it was "carefully examining" plans for a missile attack on the U.S. Pacific territory of Guam, which is home to a large U.S. military base.
"We have to put the pressure on the North Koreans by doing what needs to be done - and that's squeezing them economically far more than we've ever done before".
The influential financial stocks were among the biggest drags on the index, with Royal Bank of Canada down 1% to $93.36, and Manulife Financial falling 2.8% to $24.93.
Disney dropped 4.5 percent after reporting a weak quarter and saying it would pull its movies from Netflix and start its own video streaming services.
In the United Kingdom, gold mining stocks Randgold Resource and Fresnillo were among the few to gain - up 2.8% and 4.9%.