Defense Secretary James “Mag Dog” Mattis told a group of soldiers and airmen stationed at Fort Bragg, North Carolina to be “ready to go” to war if diplomacy fails in the North Korean nuclear crisis.
“My fine young soldiers, the only way our diplomats can speak with authority and be believed is if you’re ready to go,” he said, according to an Associated Press report. Mattis was making a speech at the 82nd Airborne Division’s Hall of Heroes Friday, as he wound up a quick pre-Christmas tour of military bases.
Though he insisted the situation in the Korean Peninsula could be resolved through non-military means, Mattis emphasized that talk is cheap if it isn’t reinforced by the real threat of armed force — especially when “There is very little reason for optimism.”
North Korea is facing more economic sanctions from the United Nations Security Council that include reduced oil exports and the termination of employment for North Koreans working in foreign countries. The fragile North Korean economy has no reserves and uses its expatriate workers as a source of foreign capital.
Mattis told his audience that because the U.S. and its allies have fought North Korea in the past, it is important to study that war and to learn its lessons.
“Knowing what went wrong the last time around is as important as knowing your own testing, so that you’re forewarned – you know what I’m driving at here,” he told the soldiers who listened intently. “So you gotta be ready.”
Although there are currently 28,000 U.S. military personnel based in South Korea, that number wouldn’t suffice in the event of war, and large numbers of reinforcements would be required.
President Donald Trump has not flinched at the possibility of using military force against North Korea if the rogue state continues to develop its nuclear program.