In a joint press conference with British Defense Secretary Michael Fallon, James Mattis addressed the most pressing security concerns for the United States and its allies, specifically North Korea, Russia, and the global war on terror.
First on the docket was North Korea and its burgeoning nuclear missile program that has elevated threats levied by its despotic Supreme Leader, Kim Jong Un, from laughable to worthy of legitimate concern. Intelligence reports and publicly reported ballistic missile testing both seem to indicate that North Korea is rapidly approaching having fully capable nuclear delivery systems for short, medium, and possibly even long-range strikes.
According to Mattis, North Korea is moving in a “very reckless manner,” with its nuclear and ballistic missile programs.
“This is a threat of both rhetoric and growing capability and we will be working with the international community to address this,” Mattis said, adding that diplomatic efforts include all “those that we might be able to enlist in this effort to get North Korea under control.”
“Right now, it appears to be going in a very reckless manner in what its conduct is portraying for the future,” Mattis said of North Korea’s government. “That’s got to be stopped.”
Mattis’ statements about Russia were relegated to their ongoing activity within Afghanistan, where Russian leaders have made moves toward normalizing relations with the Taliban, a terrorist organization the United States has been fighting in the area since the war on terror commenced in the days following the September 11th attack that started a new era of combat operations the globe over.
“We have seen Russian activity vis-à-vis the Taliban,” he told reporters.
“I’m not willing to say at this point if that has manifested into weapons and that sort of thing, but certainly what they’re up to there in light of their other activities gives us concern,” Mattis said.
According to Mattis, Russia and the United States no longer maintain any type of “cooperative engagement,” but he was cleat that the U.S. would be interested in engaging with them on a political or diplomatic level.
“Right now, Russia is choosing to be a strategic competitor,” Mattis said. “We’re finding that we can only have very modest expectations at this point in areas that we can cooperate with Russia, contrary to how we were just 10 years ago [or] five years ago.”
According to Mattis, he and Chairman of the Joints Chiefs of Staff, Marine General Joe Dunford, are both still reviewing recommendations regarding an ongoing strategy in Afghanistan – where the local U.S. commander has asked for an increase in personnel to counter what he calls a “stalemate” between coalition and Taliban forces.
“We have not made a decision, yet,” Mattis said before explaining that he’s been in contact with Army Gen. John W. Nicholson, the commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan and NATO’s Resolute Support mission for advice.
“I have not put a recommendation forward to our president at this time,” Mattis said.
Mattis concluded by addressing ongoing efforts to root ISIS out of Syria, saying that the current effort has placed the terrorist group “on their back foot.”
“That’s an immediate threat that goes to Europe,” he said. “We’re going to have to keep them on their back foot, and that’s what we’re concentrating [on] at this point.”
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