Mattis: North Korean launch doesn’t bring US ‘closer to war’

Defense Secretary James Mattis on Thursday said he does not believe North Korea’s new ballistic missile capability brings the United States “closer to war” with the country, but he asserted that the U.S. military “remains ready” for any conflict.

“I do not believe this capability in itself brings us closer to war because the president’s been very clear, the secretary of State’s been very clear, that we are leading with diplomatic and economic efforts,” Mattis told reporters at the Pentagon.

Mattis said the diplomatic effort led by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson includes economic sanctions that are supported by “the military position that we’re taking right now.”

{mosads}“The military remains ready in accordance with our alliance with Japan, with Korea. We stand ready to provide options if they are necessary,” he added.

North Korea on Tuesday tested an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) for the first time that the country boasted could “reach anywhere in the world.”

U.S. intelligence officials are classifying the ICBM — which reached an altitude of more than 1,741 miles before landing in the Sea of Japan over 500 miles from the launch site — as a new missile that has not been seen before.

Mattis said the United States is analyzing the missile, which appears to have used a booster, a new development in the eyes of officials.

He added the United States knew of the missile launch as soon as it was fired.

Mattis’s comments are a calmer response than those of U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley, who said Wednesday that North Korea’s aggressive actions “are quickly closing off the possibility of a diplomatic solution.”

President Trump, meanwhile, said Thursday while traveling in Poland that North Korea is behaving dangerously and warned of possible “severe” consequences.

Mattis addressed Trump’s comments under questioning and said the Pentagon maintains military options for the president to respond to North Korea.

“Right now, we are working with allies. We are working with … the Chinese,” he said. “But obviously, any kind of effort by North Korea to start a war would lead to severe consequences.”

In addition, Mattis said the United States will continue to work will allied countries to deal with any post-launch moves and will primarily use diplomacy to de-escalate the situation.

“I believe President Trump has made it clear, we don’t set redlines, we deal with reality,” Mattis said.

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