Defense chief: North Korea a ‘clear and present danger’

Defense Secretary James MattisJames Norman MattisTop nuclear official quietly left Pentagon in April Top nuclear official quietly left Pentagon in April Overnight Defense: Pompeo blames Iran for oil tanker attacks | House panel approves 3B defense bill | Trump shares designs for red, white and blue Air Force One MORE warned on Saturday that North Korea's rapid development of its weapons programs represents a "clear and present danger" to the United States.

"Coupled with reckless proclamations, the current North Korean program signals a clear intent to acquire nuclear-armed ballistic missiles, including those of intercontinental range, that pose direct and immediate threats to our regional allies, our partners and all the world," Mattis said at the annual Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore.

"As a matter of U.S. national security, the U.S. regards the threat from North Korea as a clear and present danger," he added.

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Tensions between Washington and Pyongyang have heightened in recent months amid growing concerns that the reclusive North Korean regime is nearing development of a nuclear-tipped missile capable of posing a threat to the U.S. 

The U.S. military this week successfully tested a defense system designed to shoot down an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) in midair. The system could be used to defend against a possible missile attack by North Korea.

Mattis also sought to reassure allies in the region that the U.S. was not withdrawing from its international leadership role, despite President TrumpDonald John TrumpDC board rejects Trump Hotel effort to dismiss complaint seeking removal of liquor license on basis of Trump's 'character' DC board rejects Trump Hotel effort to dismiss complaint seeking removal of liquor license on basis of Trump's 'character' Mexico's immigration chief resigns amid US pressure over migrants MORE's decision on Thursday to withdraw the U.S. from the 195-nation Paris climate accord.

"Once we have exhausted all possible alternatives, the Americans will do the right thing," Mattis said. "So we will still be there and we will be there with you."