North Korea’s July 4 test of an intercontinental ballistic missile does not bring the US and that country closer to war, as diplomacy is still leading the US effort to avoid a nuclear conflict in the region, Defense Secretary James Mattis said Thursday.
Speaking during a surprise meeting with reporters at the Pentagon, Mattis said the recent test hasn’t changed the US stance because though “the military remains ready in accordance with our alliance with Japan, with Korea” and the Defense Department is ready with options, “diplomacy has not failed.”
“It is our self-restraint that has prevented war in the face of provocations,” Mattis said. “Our self-restraint holds, and diplomatic efforts remain underway as we speak.”
The July 4 test marked the first time North Korea successfully tested an ICBM, with US analysis determining the Hwasong-14 missile was capable of traveling beyond 5,500 kilometers. It is the latest in a long-running series of escalations by North Korea aimed at building up its nuclear ambitions.
The US is working with allies and the Chinese, but “any kind of effort by North Korea to start a war would lead to severe consequences.”
Mattis’s comments come after President Trump told reporters in Poland that North Korea is behaving in a “dangerous manner” and the US has some “pretty severe things” available if military action is required.