During a week-long visit to Asia, defense secretary James Mattis emphasized a diplomatic resolution to the standoff between the two countries, but warned that the U.S. would not accept a nuclear North Korea. This is Mattis speaking during a meeting with his South Korean counterpart, Song Young-moo, in Seoul. Defense Secretary James Mattis: “Make no mistake: any attack on the United States or our allies will be defeated. Any use of nuclear weapons by the north will be met with a massive military response, effective and overwhelming… I cannot imagine a condition under which the United States would accept North Korea as a nuclear power.”
Mattis arrived in South Korea for a two-day trip to the country, ahead of a visit later that week to the region by Donald Trump. Trump is slated to visit China, Vietnam, Japan, the Philippines and South Africa over a 12-day visit. White house officials are divided over whether trump should visit the Demilitarized Zone between the North and South during the trip, with concerns that a visit could further exacerbate the threat of nuclear war.
Tensions between North Korea and the United States have been building after a series of nuclear and missile tests by Pyongyang and intense verbal exchanges between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. Trump has threatened to destroy all of North Korea, a nation of 25 million people.
Trump tweeted, “just heard foreign minister of North Korea speak at U.N. if he echoes thoughts of little rocket man, they won’t be around much longer!” Trump’s tweet came as the North Korean foreign minister Ri Yong-hu said Trump was on a “suicide mission.”
Congressional democrats are pushing legislation that would prevent president trump from launching a preemptive strike against North Korea.
It seems that Mattis’ statement, especially at the DMZ, that the U.S. does not want to go to war with North Korea, was kind of a preemptive statement before – ahead of Trump’s visit to Asia, particularly to South Korea, where more South Koreans fear Donald Trump than they do Kim Jong-un. And, in fact, massive protests are being planned. There was the anniversary of the candlelight revolution, and over 220 civil society organizations declared that they would hold massive protests from November 4th through the 7th all throughout the country, declaring no war, no more military exercises, stop the brinkmanship, which obviously threatens the majority of people in South Korea and also many who still have family in North Korea. So, I think that, you know, it was kind of a proactive step to assuage the South Korean people, because, obviously, Trump will come in and make some provocative statements. And I think that was part of the step to do that.
What we don’t often hear in the media, though, is that the U.S. has sent three nuclear aircraft carriers to be docked on the Korean Peninsula. They have been conducting very proactive joint war exercises with South Korea, included Navy SEALS that took out Osama bin Laden. They do include the decapitation strikes. And so, you know, it’s one thing to say, “We don’t want war with North Korea,” and another to actually be laying the grounds for that. And it’s not just the provocative military actions that are underway, but the threats. I mean, we continue to hear threats from throughout the Trump Cabinet. Mike Pompeo, the CIA director, stated at a defense foundation that assassination plots were underway for Kim Jong-un. H.R. McMaster has said, “Acceptance and deterrence is not an option.” And Tillerson has said, “We’re going to talk until the first bomb drops.”
This is not really inviting North Korea to engage in dialogue, which is urgently what is needed. It’s important to note that we haven’t seen any missile tests or nuclear tests in almost 38 days from the North Korean side. I don’t think that means they’re not going to continue. They have made it very clear that they are on a path to achieving a nuclear – you know, an ICBM that could attach a nuclear warhead that could strike the United States. And many estimates is that they’re months away from doing that.
But, I don’t know if you recall, after Trump’s, you know, “totally destroy North Korea” speech at the U.N., the North Korean foreign minister, Ri Yong-ho said that, you know – and I guess what had happened was, over that weekend, the U.S. flew F-15 fighter jets across the northern limit line on the maritime border. That’s in complete violation of, you know, an agreement that northern line would be the line that would not be crossed to prevent any kind of skirmishes. And so, in response to that, North Korea has said, “we will strike and take down U.S. planes, even if they are not within our orbit or within our, you know, geographic area.” And so, you know, North Korea has made clear that they are going to counterretaliate. And so, given that there are no channels, really, official channels – there are some small private channels that are being held, you know, 1.5 talks between former U.S. officials with the North Korean Government. There really aren’t talks underway. And I think that’s what the dangerous situation that we’re in, is, you know, when the next North Korean test is conducted, will the U.S. be ready to strike it? And would that then be the beginning of a very dangerous escalation? In fact, the congressional research service just issued a report. They said that within the first few days, 330,000 people would be killed instantly. And that’s just using conventional weapons. And once you include nuclear weapons, they estimate 25 million people. I mean, how do you estimate the number of people, especially in a region where japan, South Korea, obviously, that possesses up to 60 nuclear weapons?
I think that Donald Trump is not planning to visit the demilitarized zone. I think because, his administration is worried that he’s going to make some provocative statements that could really trigger the North Koreans. And so, right now I think what is really important is that there is grassroots mobilization across the country in the United States, massive protest being planned for Armistice Day, by Veterans for Peace.