The Insider

Mattis sees 'new avenue to peace' with North Korea; castigates Russia, China

By Tony Bertuca  
June 15, 2018 at 11:10 AM

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said today there is now a "new avenue to peace" with North Korea after President Trump's meeting with Kim Jong Un, but he cautioned that the United States must remain "vigilant" in blocking Pyongyang's pursuit of nuclear weapons.

Mattis' warning on North Korea's nuclear arsenal follows Trump's claim on Twitter that the nation is "no longer" a nuclear threat.

"President Trump's historic summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un proves the past does not have to define the future," Mattis said in prepared remarks today at the Naval War College graduation ceremony.

The defense secretary also said the actions of Russia and China continue to draw the United States into a new era of strategic competition.

Russian President Vladimir Putin "seeks to shatter NATO," Mattis said. "He aims to diminish the appeal of the western democratic model and attempts to undermine America's moral authority. His actions are not designed to challenge our arms but to undercut and compromise our belief in our ideals."

China, Mattis said, appears to be modeling its global ambitions after the Ming Dynasty, "demanding other nations become tribute states kowtowing to Beijing."

Mattis said China is "attempting to replicate on the international stage their authoritarian domestic model," militarizing the South China Sea and using "predatory economics of piling massive debt on others."

"Today, how we engage with China . . . will provide the world roadmap for our future relationship," he said.

Meanwhile, the Chinese government today announced it would retaliate following the Trump administration's levying of new tariffs on $50 billion of goods imported from China.