U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has made it clear that he does not tolerate North Korea’s recent nuclear weapon and missile testing.
Last Friday, he said the country’s recent actions were “reckless” and their nuclear weapon program “has got to be stopped.” These comments were in response to a question about Iran, when Mattis said he sees North Korea as more of an imminent threat now.
On Sunday, the Financial Times (FT) published an interview with President Trump where he upped the ante, saying “well if China is not going to solve North Korea, we will. That is all I am telling you.”
According to FT, Trump said, “China has great influence over North Korea. And China will either decide to help us with North Korea, or they won’t. if they do, that will be very good for China, and if they don’t, it won’t be good for anyone.
“This is a threat of both rhetoric and growing capability, and we will be working with the international community to address this,” said Mattis at a news conference in London. “We are working diplomatically, including with those that we might be able to enlist in this effort to get North Korea under control. But right now it appears to be going in a very reckless manner. That’s got to be stopped.”
Back in 2012 when Mattis was the head of U.S. Central Command, he said Iran was the chief looming threat to the U.S. Evidently, North Korea’s recent activity has caused him to change his focus.
Mattis did not give details about how the Trump administration plans to deal with this problem. However, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said earlier this month that “diplomatic … efforts of the past 20 years to bring North Korea to a point of de-nuclearization have failed” and that military action was “on the table.”
So with that in mind, how will the White House address the country? Military action? More sanctions, even though they haven’t proven to be effective?
“Kim has pledged to develop weapons capable of striking the U.S. and its allies. Three of the country’s nuclear tests were completed under his rule and he conducted more missile tests over the past four years than in the rest of the country’s history,” writes NBC News. “Trump could try to levy more sanctions on the country, although these have not stopped previous tests and Tillerson appeared to dismiss this approach earlier this month.”
U.S. Army strategist Maj. ML Cavanaugh has pointed out that a full-scale invasion would be difficult due to the “Afghanistan-like geography” and that the North Korean army is “a much better-trained, much better-armed version of the Taliban.”
Not to mention, an invasion would put American allies, South Korea and Japan in danger due to their close proximity to North Korea. South Korea is only 50 miles south of North Korea’s border.
North Korea is prepping for another new nuclear test, which may inspire Mattis and his team to recommend a plan to President Trump to hold North Korea accountable sooner than later.
Editor’s note: While Mattis’ language was serious, it left room for the administration to maneuver, taking the long road or perhaps intervening in some way. Trump’s words were definitive, he is willing to work with China, or he will go it alone.
What will likely happen? China will “recognize the seriousness” of the North Korea problem and then will play for time. It is not likely the U.S. will have to invade North Korea directly. However it does seem that Trump will work to solve this problem within his tenure as president.