Mattis: US must ‘remain vigilant’ toward countries pursuing nukes
Defense Secretary James Mattis on Friday warned that the United States must “remain vigilant” toward other countries seeking nuclear weapons.
Mattis praised this week’s historic summit in Singapore between President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un as a “possible new avenue to peace,” but cautioned against possible threats.
The summit proves “the past does not have to define the future,” Mattis said during a sprawling speech at the Naval War College graduation ceremony in Rhode Island, drawing from Trump’s comments at the meeting.
“But while a possible new avenue to peace now exists with North Korea, we remain vigilant regarding pursuit of nuclear weapons anywhere in the world,” Mattis added.
During the summit Tuesday, Trump and Kim signed a joint statement committing “to work toward complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.”
After returning to Washington, Trump declared on Twitter that “there is no longer a Nuclear Threat from North Korea,” something Trump’s pick to be ambassador to South Korea contradicted on Thursday.
Mattis used his address Friday to also caution against Russian President Vladimir Putin, who he says “seeks to shatter NATO” and “attempts to undermine America’s moral authority.”
“His actions are designed not to challenge our arms at this point, but to undercut and compromise our belief in our ideals,” the Defense chief said.
Russia has “proven willing to use conventional and irregular power in violation of international norms,” Mattis added, pointing to Moscow’s annexation of Crimea in 2014.
“For the first time since World War II, Russia has been the nation that has redrawn international borders by force of arms in Georgia and Ukraine while pursuing veto authority over their neighbors’ diplomatic, economic and security decisions,” he said.
Russia was suspended from the then-Group of Eight (G-8) after it annexed Crimea in a move widely condemned as a violation of international norms.
But Trump earlier this month called for Russia to be reinstated to the group of leading industrialized nations, now known as the Group of Seven (G-7).
“I think it would be good for the world. I think it would be good for Russia. I think it would be good for the United States. I think it would be good for all of the countries in the G-7,” Trump said at the group’s summit in Quebec, Canada, last weekend.
Mattis’s address Friday also hit on China, with the retired four-star general saying the nation is “harboring long-term designs to rewrite the existing global order.”
“The Ming Dynasty appears to be their model, albeit in a more muscular manner, demanding other nations become tribute states kowtowing to Beijing,” Mattis said.
He also accused Beijing of “militarizing South China Sea features while using predatory economics, piling massive debt” on nearby countries.
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