U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis on Friday said that military solutions to North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs would be “tragic on an unbelievable scale” at a Pentagon press conference.
But the former Marine Corps general did not rule out military action, instead saying that the U.S. would prefer diplomatic solutions.
“We’re going to continue to work the issue … If this goes to a military solution, it is going to be tragic on an unbelievable scale. So our effort is to work with the [UN], work with China, work with Japan, work with South Korea to try to find a way out of this situation,” Mattis told assembled reporters.
The comments follow a successful North Korean missile test on April 13. The DPRK claimed the missile was a new Hwasong-12, unveiled less than a month ago, indicating their weapons programs may be progressing faster than anticipated.
Mattis said it seemed clear that North Korea wasn’t listening to various warnings from the international community, though added recent pressure from Beijing may be having some effect.
“We’re all aware of the provocative actions they’ve taken, and there have been cautions given them by nations around the world. They clearly aren’t listening, but there appears to be some impact by the Chinese working here … I spend as much time with the Secretary of Treasury as I do with the Secretary of State as we try to craft sustainable policy forward,” the defense secretary continued.
Mattis did not specify what form the Chinese pressure was taking, though recent reports from Pyongyang could indicate a gasoline shortage while trade figures also show the North’s revenues from coal – traditionally the country’s most valuable export – have dwindled almost to zero.
The news comes as U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson met with Hong Seok-hyun, the newly elected President Moon Jae-in’s Special Envoy to the United States.
The new South Korean administration sent five special envoys to Germany, China, Russia, Japan and the U.S. to strengthen ties, though talks on the DPRK are also likely high on the agenda.
“During the meeting, Secretary Tillerson congratulated the Moon administration on its recent election. The Secretary reaffirmed the United States’ ironclad commitment to defend the Republic of Korea against threats from North Korea. The two also discussed the importance of our continued close coordination,” a press release from the U.S. State Department issued on Friday reads.
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Featured Image: 170203-D-SV709-0987 by Secretary of Defense on 2017-02-03 09:54:20