Mattis: North Korea’s ‘reckless’ behavior must be stopped

Mattis: North Korea’s ‘reckless’ behavior must be stopped
© Keren Carrion

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis on Friday called North Korea’s recent behavior “reckless" and hinted at U.S. actions to curb Pyongyang’s nuclear program.

Mattis joined a growing chorus of Trump administration officials taking a hard line against North Korea.

“Right now, [North Korea] appears to be going in a very reckless manner in what its conduct is portraying for the future, and that’s got to be stopped,” Mattis said at a press conference in London.

Speaking alongside British Defense Minister Michael Fallon, Mattis raised the topic in response to a reporter’s question about Iran, which Mattis in 2012 called one of the gravest threats facing the U.S.

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“At the time when I spoke about Iran, I was the commander of the U.S. Central Command and that was the primary exporter of terrorism ... the primary state sponsor of terrorism and it continues that kind of behavior today, but in the larger scheme of things … the North Korean threat, this is a threat of both rhetoric and growing capability,” Mattis replied.

The Pentagon chief gave vague details about how the administration will deal with North Korea’s recent saber-rattling and nuclear tests, saying only that it is enlisting the help of other nations.

“We will be working with the international community to address this, we’re doing so right now, we’re working through the United Nations, we’re working with our allies, and we’re working diplomatically including with those that we might be able to enlist in this effort to get North Korea under control,” he said.

Earlier this month during a visit to Asia, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said that all options are on the table to deal with North Korea’s missile and nuclear ambitions, including military action.

North Korea appeared to ignore the warning, two days later conducting a ground jet test of a newly developed high-thrust missile engine. South Korean officials have said the test showed “meaningful progress” on the North’s development of more sophisticated technology. 

A week after Tillerson’s Asia visit, North Korea launched a missile from its east coast. The test seemed to fail — U.S. Pacific Command said the missile exploded “within seconds” — but North Korea appears undeterred in its pace of testing since last year.

President Trump’s administration is reportedly weighing sanctions against North Korea in an effort to slow the nuclear program, placing diplomatic and economic pressure specifically focused on Chinese banks conducting business with North Korea.