After attending the 49th annual Security Consultative Meeting with South Korean Minister of National Defense Song Young-moo in Seoul on Friday, American Secretary of Defense James Mattis spoke to the press about the most pressing threat in the region, North Korea.
In his statements, Mattis drew a clear line in the sand in terms of what the United States would be willing to accept as a diplomatic solution to heightening tensions in the region.
In light of [North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un’s] expanded outlaw activities that all the world experienced and observed over the past year or two, I cannot imagine a condition under which the United States would accept North Korea as a nuclear power,” Mattis said.
This statement gets to the very heart of the diplomatic conflict that has been threatening to spill over into actual war between the reclusive North Korean state and a group of allied nations led by the United States in the Pacific. Kim Jong un’s regime has made a number of statements in the past indicating that, while they may be open to negotiations with the United States at some point, it will only be after they have confirmed their ability to launch a nuclear strike on America’s East Coast.
North Korea’s statements have made it clear that their nuclear aspirations are intended for more than military threats, but Kim sees the weapons platforms as a means by which to force other nations to the negotiating table on his own terms. If North Korea’s Supreme Leader believes nuclear arms are the means by which to rejuvenate his nation’s economy through foreign trade, it seems increasingly unlikely that he would be willing to negotiate a full denuclearization, regardless of the what the United States may offer.
Likewise, President Trump is unlikely to back down from his administration’s fervent stance that a nuclear North Korea cannot be permitted.
President [Donald J.] Trump has made clear that America’s commitments to defending our allies and to upholding our extended deterrence guarantee is ‘ironclad,’” the secretary said.
“In the past few months, the North has conducted two ICBM tests, launched two intermediate range ballistic missiles over Japan and conducted a fifth nuclear test,” Mattis continued. “I am here to underscore America’s commitment to our bilateral alliance and to make clear the Trump Administration’s full commitment to the United Nations’ mission in defense of your democracy standing, as it does, as a bedrock countering the DPRK’s effort to destabilize this region and to threaten the world.”
Despite concerns about how war with North Korea would play out, particularly for the residents of South Korea that find themselves within range of North Korean artillery, Mattis once again emphasized that North Korea would find itself swiftly defeated in a direct conflict.
The DPRK is overmatched by the Republic of Korea-United States alliance,” the secretary said. “If it remains on its current path of ballistic missiles and atomic bombs, it will be counterproductive. The DPRK will be reducing its own security.”
Mattis closed out his statements with what has become a trademark of the U.S. effort in the region, by emphasizing his desire to resolve this situation through diplomacy, as well as the need for a military presence that dissuades the alternative.
Diplomacy remains our preferred course of action, but as I have repeatedly emphasized, our diplomats are most effective when backed by credible military force in this sort of situation,” Mattis said.
“Make no mistake: Any attempt on the United States or our allies will be defeated,” he added. “Any use of nuclear weapons by the North will be met by a massive military response — effective and overwhelming.”
Image courtesy of the Department of Defense