Defense Secretary James Mattis said today that the ultimate goal is still a denuclearized Korean Peninsula, and residents in Guam shouldn’t be worried by North Korea’s threats toward the U.S. territory this week.
President Trump, meanwhile, suggested that maybe his threat to rain “fire and fury” upon the DPRK wasn’t strong enough.
Speaking to reporters en route to Seattle to talk to tech companies about defense innovations, Mattis reiterated that “the DPRK regime deck will continue to be grossly overmatched by ours, OK, and would lose any arms race or conflict it initiates.”
“I think also you’re aware that we are reviewing our nuclear posture right now. Obviously, we’re reviewing our ballistic missile defense. You know that’s going on. We’ve been very open about it,” he said. “So there are any number of things underway, but I don’t want to get into the specifics. I hope for confidentiality on those things.”
Mattis said Trump’s “rhetoric is up to the president” and would only comment on his own statements.
“I’m not going to go into the military options themselves, but of course there’s a military option. 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.”
Asked if Kim Jong-un is a rational actor, the Defense secretary replied, “I’ll leave that to you to figure out.”
At his golf club in Bedminster, N.J., today, Trump told reporters that he didn’t think North Korea meant it when they called his previous statements on the nuclear crisis “nonsense.”
“It’s the first time they’ve heard it like they heard it. And frankly, the people that were questioning that statement, was it too tough — maybe it wasn’t tough enough,” Trump said. “They’ve been doing this to our country for a long time, for many years, and it’s about time that somebody stuck up for the people of this country and for the people of other countries. So, if anything, maybe that statement wasn’t tough enough.”
Trump said the U.S. will “always consider negotiations” on North Korea and slammed his predecessors.
“The people of this country should be very comfortable, and I will tell you this: If North Korea does anything in terms of even thinking about attack of anybody that we love or we represent or our allies or us, they can be very, very nervous. I’ll tell you what. And they should be very nervous, because things will happen to them like they never thought possible, OK?” he said.
Later, answering questions after a national security briefing, Trump said Kim “has disrespected our country greatly.”
“He has said things that are horrific. And with me, he’s not getting away with it. He got away with it for a long time, between him and his family. He’s not getting away with it. This is a whole new ball game. And he’s not going to be saying those things. And he’s certainly not going to be doing those things… Let’s see what he does with Guam. If he does something in Guam, it will be an event the likes of which nobody’s seen before, what will happen in North Korea. You’ll see. You’ll see. And he’ll see. He will see,” the president said. “It’s not a dare. It’s a statement. It has nothing to do with dare. That’s a statement.”
Trump then announced that he wants to “de-nuke” the world. “I would like Russia and the United States and China and Pakistan and many other countries that have nuclear weapons, get rid of them,” he added. “But until such time as they do, we will be the most powerful nuclear nation on earth by far.”