Mattis responds to Trump: US 'never out of diplomatic solutions' on North Korea

Defense Secretary James MattisJames Norman MattisTrump hits John Kelly for defense of Jim Mattis OVERNIGHT DEFENSE: Murkowski, Mattis criticism ratchets up pressure on GOP over Trump| Esper orders hundreds of active-duty troops outside DC sent home day after reversal | Iran releases US Navy veteran Michael White Trump vows to campaign against Murkowski after senator's criticism MORE on Wednesday sought to downplay President Trump’s earlier assertion that seemed to rule out a diplomatic solution to North Korea's ongoing missile tests.

"The U.S. has been talking to North Korea, and paying them extortion money, for 25 years. Talking is not the answer!" Trump tweeted Wednesday morning.

Mattis broke from that view, telling reporters asking about the tweet at the Pentagon, “We’re never out of diplomatic solutions.”

“We continue to work together, and the minister and I share responsibility to provide for the protection of our nation our populations and our interests, which is what we are here to discuss today,” Mattis said alongside South Korea Defense Minister Song Young-moo.

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“And look for all the areas we can collaborate — there is already very strong collaboration, we always look for more, we are never complacent.”

The defense chiefs also declined to discuss the additional U.S. military support South Korea might need to increase pressure on North Korea.

Mattis's comments on how to respond to North Korea echo those of Secretary of State Rex TillersonRex Wayne TillersonDeadline for Kansas Senate race passes without Pompeo filing Democrats launch probe into Trump's firing of State Department watchdog, Pompeo The Memo: Fauci at odds with Trump on virus MORE, who said Sunday that the U.S. would continue its “peaceful pressure” campaign on Pyongyang.

“We continue to want the Kim [Jong Un] regime to understand there is a different path he can choose," Tillerson told Chris Wallace on "Fox News Sunday."

"There is a unified international voice echoing our message that no one wants to see a nuclearized Korean peninsula, so we’re all unified in our message to see a denuclearized Korean peninsula. We hope for the opportunity to engage with them as to how we might achieve that." 

North Korea fired an intermediate-range ballistic missile early Tuesday that flew over Japan, escalating tensions between Washington and Pyongyang. 

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un called the test a “prelude” to military operations directed at the U.S. territory of Guam, and he said that his government would conduct more ballistic missile tests in the Pacific, according to North Korean state media.