Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said on Saturday in Seoul that the United States would not accept a nuclear-armed North Korea. And, while a diplomatic solution remains the ultimate goal, any North Korean attack would be “met with a massive military response that is both effective and overwhelming,” Mattis said.
“In light of [Kim Jong Un’s] expanded outlaw activities that all the world experienced and observed over the past year or two, I cannot imagine a condition under which the United States would accept North Korea as a nuclear power,” Mattis said at a press conference.
“North Korea has accelerated the threat that it poses to its neighbors and the world through its illegal and unnecessary missile and nuclear weapons programs,” he said.
Mattis warned North Korea that North Korea does not stand a chance against the United States’ alliance with South Korea, which has taken on a “new urgency” toward diplomatic collaboration.
“The DPRK [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea] is overmatched by the Republic of Korea-United States alliance,” Mattis said. “If it remains on its current path of ballistic missiles and atomic bombs, it will be counterproductive. The DPRK will be reducing its own security.”
“Make no mistake – any attack on the United States, or our allies, will be defeated. And any use of nuclear weapons by the North will be met with a massive military response that is both effective and overwhelming,” Mattis said.
Mattis emphasized that diplomacy will continue to be the preferred way to deal with North Korea.
“President [Donald] Trump has made clear that America’s commitments to defending our allies and to upholding our extended deterrence guarantee is ‘ironclad,'” Mattis said.
“Diplomacy remains our preferred course of action, but as I have repeatedly emphasized, our diplomats are most effective when backed by credible military force in this sort of situation,” Mattis added.
Mattis’s South Korean counterpart, Defense Minister Song Young-moo, rejected the idea that tactical nuclear weapons would be used in response to North Korea’s advancing threats.
Song said at the press conference that limits on South Korean conventional missile warhead payloads would be lifted.
Mattis’ press conference comes just one day after he visited the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) that separates North and South Korea.