The Insider

Mattis cagey on military solution to North Korea

August 10, 2017 |
Tony Bertuca

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, voicing support Wednesday for continued diplomatic talks with North Korea, declined to discuss specifics with reporters regarding the nuclear threat posed by Pyongyang, but added that a "military solution" does exist in the event one is needed.

"Do I have military options? Of course, I do. That's my responsibility, to have those. And we work very closely with allies to ensure that this is not unilateral either . . . and of course there's a military solution," he told reporters on a flight to Seattle, per a Pentagon readout.

Mattis stressed, however, that the Trump administration is pursuing its goal for a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula via diplomatic means.

"We want to use diplomacy. That's where we've been, that's where we are right now and that's where we hope to remain," he said. "But at the same time, our defenses are robust."

Meanwhile, various media outlets have reported that North Korea now has the ability to miniaturize a nuclear warhead for placement on an intercontinental ballistic missile and the regime has threatened to "envelope Guam with fire."

On Wednesday afternoon, Mattis released a statement saying North Korea should "stop isolating itself and stand down its pursuit of nuclear weapons," which would only lead to the end of its regime and the destruction of its people.

President Trump, however, drew criticism earlier this week when he threatened North Korea with "fire and fury."Mattis told reporters on the flight Wednesday the president has the prerogative to use whatever rhetoric he chooses.

"The rhetoric is up to the president," Mattis said. "This is my rhetoric."

When Trump was asked Thursday about his statement on North Korea, he said, according to a White House pool report: "Maybe it wasn't tough enough."