Mattis warns North Korea of 'destruction of its people'

 

Defense Secretary James MattisJames Norman MattisOvernight Defense: Senate passes 0B defense bill | 3,000 US troops heading to Afghanistan | Two more Navy officials fired over ship collisions Mattis hints at US military options for North Korea Mattis: US to send 3,000 more troops to Afghanistan MORE warned North Korea in stark terms on Wednesday that it faces devastation if it does not end its pursuit of nuclear weapons

“The DPRK must choose to stop isolating itself and stand down its pursuit of nuclear weapons,” Mattis said in the statement, referring to North Korea.

“The DPRK should cease any consideration of actions that would lead to the end of its regime and the destruction of its people.”

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The Mattis remarks appeared intended to take on a complicated task: They both reined in Trump’s comments, while matching the president’s bellicose tone, which the administration argues has proven effective.

Trump on Tuesday warned North Korea of “fire and fury” if it takes aggressive steps toward the United States, words that caught much of the word off guard and raised concerns about escalating tensions between the two countries.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders later said that Trump discussed the “tone and strength” of his message with senior national security advisors before his remarks, but “the words were his own.”

The Mattis statement was just as tough in tone with North Korea, but it indicated mere threats from Pyongyang, which are routinely made by that country’s government, would not lead to military action.

“The United States and our allies have the demonstrated capabilities and unquestionable commitment to defend ourselves from an attack,” he wrote.

“While our State Department is making every effort to resolve this global threat through diplomatic means, it must be noted that the combined allied militaries now possess the most precise, rehearsed and robust defensive and offensive capabilities on Earth. The DPRK regime's actions will continue to be grossly overmatched by ours and would lose any arms race or conflict it initiates.”

Trump made his public comments at the outset of a Tuesday meeting on the opioid crisis hours after The Washington Post reported that Pyongyang had obtained the capability of creating a nuclear warhead small enough to place on a missile.

His remarks indicated the United States could strike the isolated nation based solely on spoken or written threats.

“[North Korean leader Kim Jong Un] has been very threatening beyond a normal state, and as I said they will be met with fire, fury and frankly power, the likes of which this world has never seen before,” Trump said at his golf club in Bedminster, N.J.

In two tweets on Wednesday, Trump said the U.S. nuclear arsenal “is now far stronger and more powerful than ever before.... Hopefully we will never have to use this power, but there will never be a time that we are not the most powerful nation in the world!”

Trump’s remarks have come under criticism from members of both parties.

Senate Armed Services Committee Ranking Member Jack ReedJohn (Jack) Raymond ReedOvernight Defense: Senate passes 0B defense bill | 3,000 US troops heading to Afghanistan | Two more Navy officials fired over ship collisions Senate passes 0B defense bill This week: Senate wrapping up defense bill after amendment fight MORE (D-R.I.) said Wednesday that the “fire and fury” remark was not helpful in defusing the North Korea threat compared to “smart, steady leadership and stronger diplomatic ties with our key allies.”

Secretary of State Rex TillersonRex Wayne TillersonOvernight Regulation: Trump adviser affirms plans to leave climate deal | FDA to study new cigarette warning labels | DOJ investigating Equifax stock sales Top US security official targeted in Cuba Embassy covert attacks: report Trump adviser tells foreign officials no change on Paris climate deal MORE told reporters on Wednesday that Trump was seeking to send a “strong message” to North Korea that the United States was prepared to defend itself and its allies. 

North Korea has responded to the remarks from the Trump administration with its own tough rhetoric. On Tuesday, it suggested it could launch an attack on Guam.

North Korea would have the capability to devastate much of South Korea in any military exchange with the United States. This knowledge has been a deterrent on any use of force against Pyongyang.  

Mattis said Trump “was informed of the growing threat last December and on taking office his first orders to me emphasized the readiness of our ballistic missile defense and nuclear deterrent forces.”

Mattis's full statement:

"The United States and our allies have the demonstrated capabilities and unquestionable commitment to defend ourselves from an attack. Kim Jong Un should take heed of the United Nations Security Council's unified voice, and statements from governments the world over, who agree the DPRK poses a threat to global security and stability. The DPRK must choose to stop isolating itself and stand down its pursuit of nuclear weapons. The DPRK should cease any consideration of actions that would lead to the end of its regime and the destruction of its people.

"President Trump was informed of the growing threat last December and on taking office his first orders to me emphasized the readiness of our ballistic missile defense and nuclear deterrent forces. While our State Department is making every effort to resolve this global threat through diplomatic means, it must be noted that the combined allied militaries now possess the most precise, rehearsed and robust defensive and offensive capabilities on Earth. The DPRK regime's actions will continue to be grossly overmatched by ours and would lose any arms race or conflict it initiates."