United States Defense Secretary Jim Mattis declared to the House Armed Services Committee on Monday that North Korea is the “most urgent and dangerous threat to peace and security,” moving the rogue regime of Kim Jong Un past Russia as the No. 1 threat that the United States faces.

This is an escalation of the war of words being waged between the US and North Korea. China, the North’s biggest supporter is being stuck in the middle and trying to keep the peace between the North Koreans and the UN. who continue to levy sanctions against Kim Jong Un’s government.

The statement was included in the defense secretary’s prepared opening statement, five months after Mattis identified Russia as first among threats facing the United States. The change comes as Pyongyang moves forward with what the United States calls an unprecedented number of tests on nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles and as the Trump administration’s connections to Russia are scrutinized by the FBI.

“North Korea’s continued pursuit of nuclear weapons and the means to deliver them has increased in pace and scope,” Mattis said. “The regime’s nuclear weapons program is a clear and present danger to all, and the regime’s provocative actions, manifestly illegal under international law, have not abated despite United Nations’ censure and sanctions.”

But Mattis still identified Russia as a threat, along with China, Iran and terrorist organizations. Russia and China, he said, are both “resurgent and more aggressive” and have placed the “international order under assault.” The secretary has sought to reassure allies in both Europe and the Pacific in recent months that the United States still stands with them, after President Trump repeatedly raised questions about whether he was committed to long-standing military alliances.

Mattis appeared alongside Marine Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Pentagon comptroller David Norquist. In Dunford’s prepared testimony, he did not list a No. 1 threat, but labeled Russia, China, Iran, North Korea and terrorist groups as “key challenges” that the United States faces.

North Korea’s insistence on testing its missiles and on procuring nuclear weapons have been thorny subjects for the US and the Trump Administration. The US had been installing the THAAD missile defense system in South Korea. However, those attempts have been put on hold as an olive branch by the South to appease the North’s “crazy as a fox” dictator.

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