Secretary of Defense James Mattis told reporters Monday that the U.S. military will shoot down North Korea’s missiles if they fire on U.S. territory.
“We will take it out,” Mattis said of missiles fired at Guam, which North Korea threatened last week. He then added that if the North fires on the U.S., “it could escalate into war.” The secretary of defense left ambiguity over whether he was specifically referring to missiles launched at Guam, or if the same actions would be taken in the event that the North fired missiles toward or near U.S. territory, as it plans to do, according to North Korean state media.
“You can’t make all the decisions in advance. There are a host of things going on,” Mattis explained, “I need a certain amount of ambiguity on this because I’m not going to tell them what I’m going to do.”
But, he did make it clear that if North Korea attacks, it is “game on.”
As President Donald Trump stressed that North Korean threats will be met with “fire and fury like nothing the world has seen before,” North Korea warned that it is considering firing four Hwasong-12 intermediate-range ballistic missiles into the waters off Guam in a show of force.
While there has been increased talk of war over the past week, the Trump administration has been steadily downplaying the treat of nuclear war with North Korea, which possesses an intercontinental ballistic missile and the nuclear warheads necessary for a strike on the U.S.
The Trump administration is currently pursuing a diplomatic solution while keeping military options on the back burner. “While diplomacy is our preferred means of changing North Korea’s course of action, it is backed by military options,” the secretary of defense and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said in a joint op-ed in the Wall Street Journal.
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