by Staff Writers
Washington (AFP) Aug 14, 2017
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis warned Monday that an attack by North Korea against the United States could quickly escalate into war, as he and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson moved to dial down tensions.
North Korea last week threatened to test-fire four missiles that would fly toward the small US Pacific island territory of Guam, following a promise from President Donald Trump to meet ongoing threats from Pyongyang with "fire and fury."
"If they fire at the United States, it could escalate into war very quickly," Mattis told Pentagon reporters.
Mattis's comments came after he and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said in an opinion piece in The Wall Street Journal that America has "no interest" in regime change in Pyongyang or the accelerated reunification of the two Koreas, and stressed the importance of a diplomatic solution to the crisis.
The two statesmen decided to write the piece a couple of weeks ago, and it had not been in response to last week's heated rhetoric, Mattis said.
"We were thinking it would be wise to put out something that shows how the State Department and the Defense Department work together, it's not one or the other, it's the two working together," he said.
Mattis and Tillerson said the United States favors a diplomatic solution to the nuclear stand-off, especially with help from China, though they stressed diplomacy is "backed by military options."
"The US has no interest in regime change or accelerated reunification of Korea," Mattis and Tillerson wrote.
"We do not seek an excuse to garrison US troops north of the Demilitarized Zone. We have no desire to inflict harm on the long-suffering North Korean people, who are distinct from the hostile regime in Pyongyang."
Mattis and Tillerson called on China, which is North Korea's main trading partner and ally, to take advantage of an "unparalleled opportunity" to assert its influence on Pyongyang.
"If China wishes to play a more active role in securing regional peace and stability -- from which all of us, especially China, derive such great benefit -- it must make the decision to exercise its decisive diplomatic and economic leverage over North Korea," the US officials wrote.
Mattis and Tillerson also credited UN efforts and said the United States was willing to negotiate with North Korea, but said Pyongyang should indicate a desire to show good faith by halting weapons and nuclear tests.
General Joseph Dunford, who chairs the US Joint Chiefs of Staff and is the nation's top uniformed military officer, met Monday with South Korea's defense minister Song Young-Moo and defense chief General Lee Sun-Jin.
He "conveyed America's readiness to use the full range of military capabilities to defend our allies and the US homeland," said spokesman Captain Darryn James.
S.Korea's Moon urges calm on N.Korea, says war unthinkable
Tensions have flared since US President Donald Trump, responding to the North's latest missile tests, warned it of "fire and fury like the world has never seen".
The North in turn threatened to test-fire its missiles towards the US Pacific island of Guam.
The war of words has sparked global alarm, with world leaders including Chinese President Xi Jinping urging calm on both sides.
Moon, a left-leaning leader who has previously advocated dialogue with the North, urged it to "stop all provocations and hostile rhetoric immediately, instead of worsening the situation any further".
He also indirectly urged the US -- the South's key ally and security guarantor -- to resolve the crisis peacefully.
"Our top priority is the national interest of the Republic of Korea (South Korea) and our national interest lies in peace," Moon told advisers in a meeting.
"We cannot have a war on the Korean peninsula ever again," he said. The 1950-53 conflict cost more than a million lives, left cities in ruins and perpetuated the division of the peninsula.
"I am confident that the US will respond to the current situation in a calm and responsible manner in line with our policy direction," Moon said.
Moon Monday also met General Joseph Dunford, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, who is visiting Seoul as part of a trip which will also include China and Japan.
According to Moon's spokesman, Dunford said in the meeting that the US would only consider military action against North Korea if all diplomatic and economic sanctions failed.
"He said everyone was hoping to solve the current situation without a war," spokesman Park Su-Hyun said, adding that Dunford stressed Washington would closely coordinate with Seoul over any future action.
The latest US and North Korean sabre-rattling has sparked concern that a miscalculation by either side could trigger a catastrophic conflict, although many analysts voice doubts over such a prospect.
Any conflict between the North and the US could have devastating consequences for Asia's fourth-largest economy, with Seoul within range of Pyongyang's vast conventional artillery forces.
Also within range are many of the 28,500 US troops stationed in the South.
The latest bout of tension was sparked by the North's two intercontinental ballistic missile tests last month, which appeared to bring much of the US within range.
The tests are seen as a milestone in the North's quest to develop a nuclear-tipped missile capable of hitting the US mainland.
Since then the North and Trump have locked horns in fiery exchanges, with Trump saying on Friday that US troops were "locked and loaded" in case a military solution became necessary.
New York (AFP) Aug 11, 2017
Memories of war haunt elderly Koreans in New York when they think about the gathering nuclear crisis between their homeland and the country they adopted in search of the American dream. Four million people perished in the 1950-53 Korean War between a US-backed South and China-backed North Korea. It was a bloodbath that ended in stalemate and today lies behind diplomatic panic, depressed mark ... read more
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