Defence Secretary Jim Mattis visited the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea on Friday and made clear the US’s mission in dealing with Pyongyang: to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula.
“North Korean provocations continue to threaten regional and global security despite unanimous condemnation by the United Nations Security Council,” Mattis said near North Korea’s border, according to Reuters.
“As Secretary of State Tillerson has made clear, our goal is not war, but rather the complete, verifiable, and irreversible denuclearization of the Korean peninsula,” Mattis continued.
But North Korea has repeatedly made it clear that it would not denuclearize and would even go to war to prevent outside forces from disarming them.
The stalemate between North Korea and the US is well known, but Mattis’ statement took on new weight in North Korea’s border with three US aircraft carriers in or heading to the Pacific.
While Mattis said clearly that war is not the US’s intention, military strength has taken an increasingly prominent role in the struggle.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in praised the “aggressive deployment” of US strategic assets like aircraft carriers to the country, saying it helped deter North Korea.
A separate statement from the US military’s top military officer, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford, said that “any attack” from North Korea would be met with an “overwhelming and effective” response, “using the full range of US military capabilities.”
President Donald Trump is due in South Korea in November and may visit the DMZ, where his vice president, secretary of state, and secretary of defence have already visited.
North Korea on Thursday backed down from a potential flashpoint with the South by returning a fishing ship it had apprehended for allegedly fishing illegally in its waters.
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