Mattis warns NKorea against risking 'destruction of its people'

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis warned North Korea Wednesday that it would be "grossly" outmatched in any conflict with the US, telling Pyongyang to stop considering any action that risked "the destruction of its people".

"The DPRK (Democratic People's Republic of Korea) must choose to stop isolating itself and stand down its pursuit of nuclear weapons," Mattis said in a statement.

"The DPRK should cease any consideration of actions that would lead to the end of its regime and the destruction of its people."

The Pentagon chief's comments came a day after President Donald Trump issued an apocalyptic warning to his North Korean counterpart Kim Jong-Un, telling him Pyongyang faced "fire and fury" over its weapons and ballistic missile programs.

Mattis said the United Nations Security Council now has a "unified" voice after it unanimously approved tough new sanctions against North Korea.

"The United States and our allies have the demonstrated capabilities and unquestionable commitment to defend ourselves from an attack," Mattis said.

He added that US and allied militaries now have "the most precise, rehearsed and robust defensive and offensive capabilities on Earth."

"The DPRK regime's actions will continue to be grossly overmatched by ours and would lose any arms race or conflict it initiates," he said.

Trump's language towards North Korea has become increasingly hard-edged since Pyongyang carried out a pair of successful intercontinental ballistic missile tests (ICBM) in July, which put the US mainland in range for the first time.

Pyongyang's KCNA state news agency reported Wednesday that plans were being drawn up for missile strikes against the tiny US Pacific island territory of Guam.

Mattis's tone was at odds with that of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who earlier said he did not believe "there is any imminent threat" to Guam or other US targets and hoped that diplomatic pressure would prevail in the crisis.

"I think Americans should sleep well at night, have no concerns about this particular rhetoric of the last few days," Tillerson said.

Trump's limited military options for 'fire and fury'
Washington (AFP) Aug 9, 2017 - President Donald Trump's threat to unleash "fire and fury" against North Korea marks yet another escalation in the nuclear rhetoric between him and Kim Jong-Un.

But with any military action potentially triggering a massive response from Pyongyang, does Trump have any realistic options?

- Can Trump strike first? -

Preemptive military action against North Korea would mean the United States and its allies won't wait until Pyongyang fires an offensive ballistic missile.

Even limited military action -- against launch facilities, for example -- risks Kim responding with a devastating strike.

The unpredictable leader has amassed artillery units along the border with South Korea, whose capital, Seoul, is only about 35 miles (55 kilometers) away.

Limited shelling and rocket fire would likely lead to mass casualties in the city of 10 million and experts warn that any conflict would quickly escalate, with geopolitical repercussions, upheaval of the global economy and huge death tolls.

Aside from the large civilian population, the Pentagon has about 28,500 troops stationed in South Korea, all of whom would be at risk.

- What to strike? -

B-2 stealth bombers -- likely taking off from Guam -- could deliver Massive Ordnance Penetrator bombs and other armaments that would incapacitate North Korea's known nuclear production sites and weapons storage facilities.

Stratfor, a US private intelligence firm that this year published a paper looking at possible Pentagon options, said an initial wave of bombing could be followed up by a barrage of F-22 strikes and cruise missiles that would focus on wiping out North Korea's weapons delivery vehicles.

But destroying Pyongyang's obvious military targets does little to prevent North Korea delivering a nuclear device through other means -- perhaps via a civilian fishing boat -- that would be detonated by a suicide operative.

- Is Guam really at risk? -

After Trump's warning of "fire and fury like the world has never seen," Pyongyang said it was considering a missile strike against the tiny US Pacific island territory of Guam that could be put into action "any moment" after Kim gives the order.

Though North Korea last month twice demonstrated it has intercontinental ballistic missile capability, it would only need an intermediate-range missile to hit Guam.

Guam serves as a strategic base for the US military in the Pacific, with Naval Base Guam and Andersen Air Force Base.

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said he did not believe "there is any imminent threat" to Guam, and Pentagon officials told AFP there had been no change in the security level at the island's military bases.

While it is theoretically possible for a North Korean intermediate-range missile to reach Guam, these weapons have only been tested a few times and their destructive capabilities are not proven.

The US military also has a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile-defense system in Guam.

- More powerful than ever? -

Trump on Wednesday took to Twitter to boast that America's nuclear arsenal is the most powerful it has ever been, though he said "hopefully" the US would never have to use it.

"My first order as President was to renovate and modernize our nuclear arsenal. It is now far stronger and more powerful than ever before," Trump tweeted.

In fact, the Pentagon has long planned on modernizing its nuclear "triad," a three-pronged nuclear attack force comprising ICBMs, submarines and bombers.

It is a decades-long process that was initiated many years before Trump took office.

Tillerson's Thai stop spotlights country's North Korea ties
Bangkok (AFP) Aug 8, 2017
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson made a pit-stop in Bangkok on Tuesday with a plea to the kingdom to curb business ties with North Korea, as Washington rounds up allies for its bid to halt Pyongyang's nuclear ambitions. Tillerson is the highest level American diplomat to visit Thailand since a 2014 coup strained ties between the longtime friends and saw China court Bangkok with massive ar ... read more

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Mattis warns NKorea against risking 'destruction of its people' Mattis warns NKorea against risking 'destruction of its people' Reviewed by Defense Alert on 04:27:00 Rating: 5

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