Accessibility links

Breaking News

US Defense Chief Warns North Korea Over Missile Threats

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, right, and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis arrive on Capitol Hill in Washington, Aug. 2, 2017, to brief the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis issued a warning to North Korea, saying that any attempt to launch missiles at U.S. soil “could escalate into war very quickly.”

“If they do that, it’s game on,” Mattis told Pentagon reporters during an impromptu briefing late Monday. “You don’t shoot at people in this world unless you want to bear the consequence.”

Kim to watch US

KCNA, North Korea’s official news agency, said Tuesday that the country’s leader, Kim Jong Un, had received a report from his army on its plans to strike the area around Guam, a U.S. territory in the western Pacific Ocean. Kim said he would watch the actions of the United States for a while longer before making a decision, according to the report.

The North’s leader ordered the army to be fire-ready should he make a decision for action, the report said.

Talking tough, pushing diplomacy

Mattis sought to allay fears following previous North Korean threats to launch missiles in the direction of Guam.

“We know within moments where it’s going,” he said of any potential launch.

The top U.S. defense chief said that if officials determined a missile was likely to hit Guam, “We’ll take it out.”

Mattis has not shied away from similarly tough talk in the past but has consistently emphasized Washington would prefer diplomatic solutions to resolve differences with Pyongyang.

“The U.S. has no interest in regime change or accelerated reunification of Korea,” he wrote in a Wall Street Journal op-ed with U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, published Monday. “We do not seek an excuse to garrison U.S. troops north of the Demilitarized Zone.”