Secretary of Defense James Mattis stressed Sunday that a conflict in North Korea “would be probably the worst kind of fighting in most people’s lifetimes.”
North Korea’s weapons program is advancing at an accelerated rate, and the U.S. is working with international partners to resolve the crisis without bloodshed. “The bottom line is it would be a catastrophic war if this turns into a combat if we’re not able to resolve this situation through diplomatic means,” Mattis told John Dickerson on CBS News’ “Face the Nation.”
“The North Korean regime has hundreds of artillery cannons and rocket launchers within range of one of the most densely populated cities on earth, which is the capital of South Korea,” the secretary of defense explained, adding that North Korea is a threat to all countries in the region.
He also noted that North Korea “is a direct threat to the United States.” While the North has yet to develop and intercontinental ballistic missile, the U.S. considers “it a direct threat even today.”
“They have been very clear in their rhetoric. We don’t have to wait until they have an intercontinental ballistic missile with a nuclear weapon on it to say that now it’s manifested completely,” Mattis told Dickerson.
“If this goes to a military solution, it’s going to be tragic on an unbelievable scale,” Mattis said a little over a week ago during a Pentagon press briefing.
North Korea has tested a new medium long-range ballistic missile in the past three weeks, which could be a stage or a technological predecessor for a liquid-fueled ICBM. The North has also tested a solid-fueled mid-range ballistic missile possibly capable of helping North Korea turn the ICBM models displayed last month into working weapons systems. North Korea announced Sunday it has tested a new surface-to-air missile to shoot down enemy aircraft.
“We always assume that with a testing program they get better with each test,” Mattis said.
The secretary of defense said that while the U.S. is committed to ending the crisis on the Korean Peninsula, the new administration will not draw any red lines. “The president needs political maneuver room on this issue,” he stated in Sunday’s interview, “We do not draw red lines unless we intend to carry them out.”
North Korea has launched around a dozen missiles since Trump took office.
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