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North Korea

Defense Secretary Mattis warns North Korea it risks 'total annihilation'

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, left, accompanied by Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais / Associated Press)
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, left, accompanied by Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais / Associated Press)

Defense Secretary James Mattis warned Pyongyang against aggression against the United States or its allies, saying it would trigger a unified world response and what he termed the “total annihilation of a country, namely North Korea.”

Speaking outside the White House after President Trump met with his top national security advisors, Mattis asserted that the U.S. has “many” military options, and that the president had been briefed on them.

He addressed North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in tart terms a day after Kim's government conducted what it claimed was its first hydrogen bomb test, a nuclear device far more destructive  than those used against Japan at the end of World War II.

North Korea has notched up several significant weapons advances this summer.

In July it tested two intercontinental ballistic missiles that U.S. experts said were capable for the first time of reaching the U.S. mainland. After threatening to fire midrange missiles toward Guam, it instead lobbed one over Japan, sparking alarms there. The nuclear test, its seventh, is its most powerful so far.

“Any threat to the United States or its territory, including Guam, or our allies, will be met with a massive military response, a response both effective and overwhelming,” Mattis told reporters in the White House driveway. “Kim Jong Un should take heed in the United Nations Security Council”s unified voice.

“All members unanimously agreed on the threat North Korea poses and they remain unanimous in their commitment to the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula. Because we are not looking to the total annihilation of a country, namely  North Korea, but as I said we have many options to do so.”

The Defense secretary was accompanied by Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford, the Pentagon's highest ranking uniformed official. Neither man took questions from reporters.

Mattis’ remarks represented a far more sober threat than the administration had offered earlier Sunday, when Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said he was, as a first step, preparing harsher economic sanctions against North Korea.

Trump later suggested in a tweet that he would consider blocking trade with countries doing business with Pyongyang  — a threat principally aimed at China, which is North Korea's chief trading partner.

The United Nations Security Council recently voted unanimously to impose stricter sanctions on North Korea, and China complied by barring imports of coal and other key commodities.

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