Washington’s goal “is not war” as it seeks to ease high military tension with Pyongyang, US Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis said on Friday, standing at the heavily fortified border between the two Koreas.
Tension has flared on the Korean peninsula as US President Donald Trump and the North’s ruler Kim Jong-Un have traded threats of war and personal insults that sparked global alarm.
Mattis, who visited the tense Demilitarised Zone during a trip to South Korea, criticised the North’s “pursuit of nuclear weapons… in order to threaten others with catastrophe”.
Defence Secretary James Mattis says US ‘not rushing to war’ with North Korea But he maintained that the US was still committed to a “diplomatic solution”.
“As the US Secretary of State Tillerson has made clear, our goal is not war but rather the complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula,” he said in the truce village of Panmunjom.
Mattis also stressed he and his South Korean counterpart Song Young-Moo had “made clear our mutual commitment to a diplomatic solution to address North Korea’s reckless, outlaw behaviour”.
The remarks came a day after Mattis had said Washington was “not rushing to war” and was looking for a “peaceful resolution”.
He is set to hold annual defence talks with Song on Saturday during the two-day trip, which comes ahead of a planned trip by Trump to the South — a key US ally in Asia — next month.
Trump is set to visit Seoul from November 7 to 8 with all eyes on his message to the North and Kim.
The isolated North carried out its sixth nuclear test in September and has launched several missiles in recent months potentially capable of reaching the mainland of its “imperialist enemy” the US.
The moves, staged in violation of UN resolutions banning the North from any use of atomic and ballistic technology, prompted new US-led UN sanctions against the impoverished state.
Pyongyang reacted angrily to the new sanctions and Trump’s recent remark that “only one thing will work” with the North fuelled concerns of a potential conflict.