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North Korea

Defense chief warns North Korea against actions that would lead to 'end of its regime and the destruction of its people'

James N. Mattis testifying at his confirmation hearing for Defense secretary. (J. Scott Applewhite / Associated Press)
James N. Mattis testifying at his confirmation hearing for Defense secretary. (J. Scott Applewhite / Associated Press)

Defense Secretary James N. Mattis became the latest senior member of the Trump administration to issue dire warnings to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, declaring Wednesday that Pyongyang “should cease any consideration of actions that would lead to the end of its regime and the destruction of its people.”

He spoke a day after President Trump warned that he would unleash “fire and fury like the world has never seen” if North Korea continued to threaten America, rhetoric that suggested the two countries are edging closer to conflict.

North Korea successfully tested an intercontinental ballistic missile last month for the first time, and U.S. intelligence agencies assess that Pyongyang is capable of producing a compact nuclear warhead and putting it atop a long-range missile.

The Trump administration has used a mix of tough talk and diplomacy to deal with the mounting threat.

Over the weekend, the United Nations Security Council voted unanimously to add new sanctions on North Korea in response to its ballistic missile tests.

And Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has made clear he is open to negotiations if Pyongyang freezes its nuclear and missile programs.

Mattis referred to that two-track policy on Wednesday.

“While our State Department is making every effort to resolve this global threat through diplomatic means, it must be noted that the combined allied militaries now possess the most precise, rehearsed and robust defensive and offensive capabilities on Earth,” he said in a statement.

“The [North Korean] regime’s actions will continue to be grossly overmatched by ours and would lose any arms race or conflict it initiates.”

The warning followed Trump’s tweets earlier in the day that the U.S. nuclear arsenal is “now far stronger and more powerful than ever before.”

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