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Mattis: Army 'must stand ready' in face of North Korean threat

Defense Secretary James Mattis on Monday emphasized that the U.S. still seeks a “diplomatically led” solution with North Korea but said the “U.S. Army must stand ready” in the chance that option doesn’t work.

“It is right now a diplomatically led, economic sanctions-buttressed effort to try to turn North Korea off of this path,” Mattis said during his keynote address at the Association of the United States Army’s annual meeting in Washington.

“What does the future hold? Neither you nor I can say, so there is one thing the U.S. Army can do. And that is you have to be ready to ensure that we have military options that our president can deploy if needed.”

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Mattis’s speech comes as U.S.-North Korean tensions hit a new high following President Trump’s United Nations address in September. During the address, Trump said that the U.S. will “totally destroy” North Korea if necessary and tweeted that leader Kim Jong Un “won't be around much longer.”

The former Marine Corps general has said that war with North Korea would be “catastrophic.” He also said in September that the U.S. has military options that would not put South Korean capital Seoul at risk, but he did not elaborate.

“What we want to do is be so ready and be very much aware that we fight the way we come, that everybody in the world wants to deal with Secretary [Rex] Tillerson and the Department of State, not the Department of Defense and the United States Army,” Mattis said.

Mattis also said that the U.S. should rely on its allies for help, with a big emphasis on NATO.

“From NATO to Europe to the Pacific, our message to our allies is ‘We are with you.’”