The regime of North Korea’s Kim Jong-un remains a danger to the world, Defense Secretary James N. Mattis said Jan. 26 in Honolulu, while emphasizing diplomatic efforts to resolve the North Korean nuclear issue.
The goal remains the complete, verifiable, and irreversible denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, Mattis told reporters at U.S. Pacific Command‘s headquarters at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, with South Korea Minister of Defense Song Young-moo.
“The Kim regime is a threat to the entire world,” Mattis said. “It’s an international problem that requires an international solution.”
He noted three unanimous United Nations Security Council Resolutions on North Korea.
“Our response to this threat remains diplomacy-led, backed up with military options available to ensure that our diplomats are understood to be speaking from a position of strength,” the secretary explained.
U.S.-South Korea ‘ironclad and irreplaceable’ alliance
Mattis and Song reaffirmed the strength of their countries’ alliance and America’s pledge to defend South Korea and maintain peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula.
The U.S.-South Korean alliance is “ironclad and irreplaceable,” Mattis said.
“Our combined militaries stand shoulder-to-shoulder ready to defend against any attack” on South Korea or the United States, he said.
Mattis praised South Korea’s “steadfast action upholding United Nations sanctions at sea,” noting South Korea has impounded two ships that were found violating the U.N. Resolutions using ship-to-ship transfer at cargo at sea.
South Korea “leads by example in carrying out the United Nations’ sanctions,” Mattis said, adding North Korea is reminded that “risking its economy to boost its rockets makes it less secure, not more.”
Enduring Pacific power
Mattis said Song is always welcome at the Pacific Command headquarters in Honolulu. This was the last stop of the secretary’s trip that also took him to Indonesia and Vietnam.
“Here in beautiful Hawaii we’re reminded that America is an enduring Pacific power — five of our states plus territories all touch on this shared ocean,” he said.
Reckless rhetoric, dangerous provocations
Mattis said the United States and South Korea welcome the Olympic Games talks between North Korea and South Korea, but at the same time, “remain steadfast with the international economic pressure campaign to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula.”
The talks for the Olympics, Mattis explained, do not address the overarching problems with North Korea.
“Diplomacy should repose reason on Kim’s reckless rhetoric and dangerous provocations,” he said.
North Korea is sending athletes, including hockey players for a unified South Korea-North Korea team, to the 2018 Winter Games in South Korea. The games begin Feb. 9.