US Defense Secretary James Mattis has said that the United States
Army “must stand ready” in the face of a North Korean threat in case a “diplomatically led” solution with the country does not work.
“It is right now a diplomatically led, economic sanctions-buttressed effort to try to turn North Korea
off of this path,” Mattis said on Monday while speaking at the Association of the United States Army’s annual meeting in Washington, DC.
“What does the future hold? Neither you nor I can say, so there is one thing the US 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,” he stated.
Mattis’s remarks come as tensions between the United States and North Korea are at a new high following Donald Trump’s United Nations General Assembly address in September, where the US president warned North Korean leader Kim Jong-un that the US would “totally destroy” his country of 26 million people if necessary.
In response, Kim said Trump will “pay dearly” for threatening to destroy North Korea. He added that Trump is “a rogue and a gangster fond of playing with fire,” who is “unfit to hold the prerogative of supreme command of a country.”
Meanwhile, Mattis said that war with North Korea would be “catastrophic.”
“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,” the former Marine Corps general said.
North Korea has conducted several nuclear tests and missile test-launches in response to US threats against the country.
The North Korean leader ordered the production of more rocket warheads and engines in August, shortly after the United States suggested that its threats of military action and sanctions were having an impact on Pyongyang’s behavior.
Pyongyang says it will not give up on its nuclear deterrence unless Washington ends its hostile policy toward the country and dissolves the US-led UN command in South Korea. Thousands of US soldiers are stationed in South Korea and Japan.
Analysts say the Trump administration’s threats against North Korea are counterproductive and justify Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons and missile programs that it insists are for self-defense. They say the threats could have an opposite effect, intensifying the deteriorating situation in the Korean Peninsula.