Mattis Warns Of ‘Bumpy Road’ To North Korea Negotiations

REUTERS/Yuri Gripas

Virginia Kruta Associate Editor
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Defense Secretary James Mattis warned on Sunday that, in spite of the recent positive turn in negotiations with North Korean leaders, the road to denuclearization on the Korean peninsula is still going to require careful navigation.

He explained, “We can anticipate, at best, a bumpy road to the negotiations.”

As part of the final days of the Shangri-la Dialogue security conference, Mattis challenged South Korean Defense Minister Song Young-moo and Japanese Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera to keep the pressure on Kim Jong Un. He encouraged them to to hold a strong defensive position, which would give them strength in upcoming negotiations. (RELATED: Chinese General Trades Jabs With Mattis In Tense Exchange Over The South China Sea)

Mattis then  said that the only path to peace on the Korean peninsula would come through the strength of those allied to ensure it. He said, “In this moment we are steadfastly committed to strengthening even further our defense cooperation as the best means for preserving the peace.”

Minister Song Young-moo said that South Korea was moving forward in negotiations with renewed optimism, following recent good-faith gestures from North Korea. But he also noted that they would move forward with caution. He said, “Of course, given North Korea’s past, we must be cautious in approaching this.”

Mattis concluded by restating that the United States had not wavered from its initial demands on the North Korean regime, and that there would be no relief from sanctions until Kim Jong Un had taken “verifiable and irreversible steps” to denuclearization.