Secretary of Defense James Mattis used the correct term for any all-out war with North Korea. Speaking on CBS News’ “Face the Nation,” Mattis said, “A conflict in North Korea, John, would be probably the worst kind of fighting in most people’s lifetimes.”
Why do I say this? The North Korean regime has hundreds of artillery cannons and rocket launchers within range of one of the most densely populated cities on earth, which is the capital of South Korea.
We are working with the international community to deal with this issue. This regime is a threat to the region, to Japan, to South Korea. And in the event of war, they would bring danger to China and to Russia as well. But the bottom line is it would be a catastrophic war if this turns into a combat if we’re not able to resolve this situation through diplomatic means.
Later Sunday, North Korea lobbed a SCUD missile into Japanese territorial waters in the Sea of Japan.
What’s interesting here is how President Trump’s cabinet is sending mixed signals to the Norks, and in fact Trump himself is swinging like a pendulum. At least this time Trump didn’t undercut his own cabinet–he stayed consistent with Mattis’ statement.
North Korea has shown great disrespect for their neighbor, China, by shooting off yet another ballistic missile…but China is trying hard!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 29, 2017
Just last month, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson declared “all options for responding to future provocations must remain on the table.” The cabinet member responsible for diplomacy is hinting at military action, and the nation’s top military strategist–himself a “warrior monk”–is pleading for diplomacy. Add that to the clown show at DoD over the position of the U.S.S. Carl Vinson, and who should the Norks believe?
But for once, the Kim regime is keeping its word. On April 18, Vice-Foreign Minister Han Song-ryol said the North will “be conducting more missile tests on a weekly, monthly and yearly basis.” And so they have. They seem to be asking, “what are you going to do about it?”
Mattis, though he led with the “international community” solution, later indicated that the U.S. may be holding some very high cards in our range of potential responses.
JOHN DICKERSON: You say North Korea is a threat to the region. Is North Korea a threat to the United States?
SECRETARY JAMES MATTIS: It is a direct threat to the United States. They have been very clear in their rhetoric we don’t have to wait until they have an intercont- intercontinental ballistic missile with a nuclear weapon on it to say that now it’s manifested completely.
JOHN DICKERSON: What is the line in North Korea that if the regime crosses that line, in your view, the U.S. should take action?
SECRETARY JAMES MATTIS: Yeah, I’d prefer not to answer that question, John. The president needs political maneuver room on this issue. We– we do not draw red lines unless we intend to carry them out. We’ve made very clear that we’re willing to work with China and we believe China has tried to be helpful in this regard.
JOHN DICKERSON: Give me a sense, if you can, of the time when you think North Korea could get to the point of no return.
SECRETARY JAMES MATTIS: We consider it a direct threat even today, the North Korean threat. As far as that specific threat, I don’t want to put a timeline on it. At this time, what we know, I’d prefer to keep silent about because we may actually know some things the North Koreans don’t even know.
North Korea is the biggest threat we have. ISIS can cause terror, and take lives. Iran can threaten Israel. Russia can be the world’s dezinformatsiya troll. But only North Korea can, and is perfectly willing to, incinerate or poison the better part of 11 million people in Seoul, the densest populated city on earth. We will have to deal with stopping them before they add nuclear-tipped ICBMs to their repertoire of death.