Mattis hints at secret 'kinetic' military options for North Korea

Jim Mattis Defense Secretary Military accidents Asia

U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis has hinted at a possible military option on North Korea that would spare South Korea from grave risk.

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said on Sunday the U.N. Security Council had run out of options on containing North Korea's nuclear program and that the United States might have to turn the matter over to the Pentagon.

And with every known military option - from launching Tomahawk cruise missiles to air strikes - its likely that North Korea would interpret any strike, however limited, "as a prelude to invading or overthrowing the government, even if the United States insists otherwise", Daryl Press, a scholar of nuclear deterrence at Dartmouth College, told The Atlantic.

"I will not go into details", he said. USA nuclear weapons were withdrawn from the Korean peninsula in the early 1990s at the close of the Cold War.

Mattis also confirmed that he and his South Korean counterpart had recently discussed the possibility of putting USA nuclear weapons back into South Korea, an option that has been raised publicly by some South Korean politicians. "I want to say", he said.

On North Korea's latest ballistic missile test last Friday, which saw a Hwasong-12 intermediate-range ballistic missile fly over Japan to land in the northern Pacific, Mattis said Japanese and USA military bases in Japan did not shoot it down because it wasn't "directly threatening any of us".

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Still, despite heated rhetoric and posturing in the United States and North Korea, there has been no positioning of US military assets to suggest a military conflict is imminent. He also explained that diplomacy and sanctions will prove effective in pressuring the regime.

Trump has vowed that North Korea will never be allowed to threaten the United States with a nuclear-tipped missile, but he has also asked China to do more to rein in its neighbour.

In his remarks Monday, Mattis made clear that the US and Japan are prepared for future missile threats.

President Trump has repeatedly refused to rule out a military strike on North Korea's nuclear facilities.

North Korea has fired two missiles over Japan in the past month, both of which landed in the Pacific Ocean beyond the northern island of Hokkaido.

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