Pentagon chief: War with North Korea would be ‘catastrophic’

Defense Secretary James MattisJames Norman MattisKerry rips Trump’s ‘pull-out, walk-away presidency’ Macron: US 'retreat from Syria' won't change mission to eradicate ISIS Poll: Most Americans want US troops in Syria MORE warned on Sunday that a war with North Korea would be "catastrophic," and would place United States allies in the region at extreme risk.

"The North Korean regime has hundreds of artillery cannons and rocket launchers within range of one of the most densely populated cities on earth, which is the capital of South Korea," Mattis said on CBS's "Face the Nation."

"This regime is a threat to the region, to Japan, to South Korea. And in the event of war, they would bring danger to China and to Russia as well," he added. "But the bottom line is it would be a catastrophic war if this turns into a combat if we're not able to resolve this situation through diplomatic means."

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Tensions rose between Washington and Pyongyang last month over the North's rapidly advancing nuclear and missile programs, prompting the U.S. to move a Navy strike group into the west Pacific near the Korean Peninsula. North Korea denounced that maneuver as an act of aggression and threatened a strike on the U.S. if provoked.

The exchange put other countries in the region on high alert, particularly South Korea and Japan, where the U.S. has tens of thousands of troops stationed.

President TrumpDonald John TrumpDACA recipient claims Trump is holding ‘immigrant youth hostage’ amid quest for wall Lady Gaga blasts Pence as ‘worst representation of what it means to be Christian’ We have a long history of disrespecting Native Americans and denying their humanity MORE told Reuters in an interview with Reuters last month that a "major, major conflict" between the U.S. and North Korea was possible, and that while he preferred a diplomatic solution, such a path would be "very difficult."