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Mattis at DMZ: 'Our Goal is Not War,' but 'Irreversible Denuclearization'

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and South Korean Defense Minister Song Young-moo greet troops during a visit to the DMZ on Oct. 27, 2017. (DoD photo by Army Sgt. Amber I. Smith)

Defense Secretary James Mattis stressed in a visit to the DMZ today that the United States is committed to diplomacy first to stop the North Korean nuclear threat.

Accompanied by South Korean Defense Minister Song Young-moo, Mattis said the visit “portrays in very strong terms the difference we see between two nations.”

“To the south lies a vibrant country, a vibrant economy, a free country, and it’s underpinned by peace-loving members of a free society,” he said. “Behind me to the north, an oppressive regime that shackles its people, denying their freedom, their welfare and their human dignity in pursuit of nuclear weapons in the means of delivery, in order to threaten other with catastrophe.”

“North Korean provocations continue to threaten regional and world peace. And despite the unanimous condemnation by the United Nations Security Council, they still proceed.”

Mattis noted that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson “has made clear our goal is not war, but rather the complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.”

The Defense minister told his South Korean counterpart that “we stand shoulder-to-shoulder with you, with your soldiers and with your people in confronting the threats posed by the Kim Jong-un regime.”

Song affirmed that “although North Korea continues to develop nuclear weapon and missiles, but these are weapons that they should never be used.”

“Should they ever use it, they will be faced with the strong might of the ROK-U.S. combined forces, and they will be met with a proportional and firm response,” he said. “And we also strongly implore that North Korea stop its reckless provocations and come out toward the path of peace and dialogue.”

North Korean border guards peered through windows as Mattis toured the UN Command Military Armistice Commission’s (UNCMAC) conference building.

South Korea had proposed that Mattis wear his old Marine Corps uniform to the DMZ to send a signal to Pyongyang, but Mattis wore a suit instead.

Earlier this week, Mattis and Song met with Japanese Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera, who noted North Korea’s recent launches of ballistic missiles over Japan.

“North Korea forcibly conducted its sixth missile testing and we cannot rule out the possibly that North Korea tested a hydrogen bomb,” Onodera said. “North Korea conducted a series of ballistic missile launches and nuclear tests since last year.  …Threat posed by North Korea was grown to unprecedented, critical and imminent level.  Therefore, we have to stay collaborated in defense responses to meet that level of threats.”