U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has warned North Korea to stop considering actions that would “lead to the end of its regime and the destruction of its people,” an apparent reference to the North’s threat to attack Guam.
Mattis said the United States and its allies have the capabilities to defend themselves from an attack, and called on North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to “take heed” of last week’s unanimous decision by the United Nations Security Council to impose more sanctions on North Korea.
“The DPRK must choose to stop isolating itself and stand down its pursuit of nuclear weapons,” Mattis said in a statement, referring to North Korea by its official name. “The DPRK should cease any consideration of actions that would lead to the end of its regime and the destruction of its people.”
The comment is an apparent reference to North Korea’s threat earlier on Wednesday, when a spokesman for North Korea’s army said the armed forces are “carefully examining” a plan to fire ballistic missiles “at the areas around” the U.S. territory of Guam, which is home to military bases.
“While our State Department is making every effort to resolve this global threat through diplomatic means, it must be noted that the combined allied militaries now possess the most precise, rehearsed and robust defensive and offensive capabilities on Earth,” Mattis added. “The DPRK regime’s actions will continue to be grossly overmatched by ours and would lose any arms race or conflict it initiates.”
The latest round of threats was prompted by news that the U.S. intelligence community has concluded that North Korea has successfully produced a miniaturized nuclear warhead that can fit inside its long-range missiles, which are in theory capable of reaching the United States.
The news prompted Trump to warn North Korea to stop making any further threats to the United States. “They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen,” he said. “[Kim Jong Un] has been very threatening beyond a normal state, and as I said they will be met with fire and fury and frankly power, the likes of which this world has never seen before.”
Just hours later, North Korea said it was considering a plan to “contain” military bases on Guam, from where U.S. bombers have repeatedly taken off to fly over the Korean Peninsula in a show of force. It also condemned the U.S. for a recent long-range missile test, calling the moves “reckless military provocations.”
The latest developments follow months of escalating tensions on the Korean Peninsula, fueled by North Korea’s frequent missile tests and its advancing nuclear weapons program, as well as U.S. military exercises and statements by U.S. President Donald Trump.
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