WASHINGTON —United States Defense Secretary James Mattis warned North Korea on Sunday of aggression against the United States or its allies, saying it would trigger a unified world response and what he termed the “total annihilation of a country, namely North Korea.”
He addressed North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in tart terms a day after Kim’s government conducted what it claimed was its first hydrogen bomb test, a nuclear device far more destructive than the weapons used against Japan at the end of World War II.
North Korea has had several significant weapons advances this summer.
In July it tested two intercontinental ballistic missiles that United States experts said were capable for the first time of reaching the United States mainland. After threatening to fire midrange missiles toward Guam, it instead lobbed one over Japan, sparking alarms there. The nuclear test, its seventh, is its most powerful so far.
“Any threat to the United States or its territory, including Guam, or our allies, will be met with a massive military response, a response both effective and overwhelming,” Mattis said. “Kim Jong Un should take heed in the United Nations Security Council’s unified voice.
“All members unanimously agreed on the threat North Korea poses and they remain unanimous in their commitment to the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula. Because we are not looking to the total annihilation of a country, namely North Korea, but as I said we have many options to do so.”
Mattis was accompanied by Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford, the Pentagon’s highest-ranking uniformed official. Neither man took questions.
Mattis’ remarks were a far more sober threat than the administration offered earlier Sunday, when Treasury Secretary Steve Munchin said he was, as a first step, preparing harsher economic sanctions against North Korea.
Trump later suggested in a Twitter post that he would consider blocking trade with countries doing business with Pyongyang — a threat principally aimed at China, which is North Korea’s chief trading partner.
The United Nations Security Council recently voted unanimously to impose stricter sanctions on North Korea, and China complied by barring imports of coal and other key commodities.
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