Mattis: Military options for Korean Peninsula crisis ready

Defense Secretary James N. Mattis conducts a town hall meeting at Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho, Jan. 16, 2018. (Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Jeremy D. Wolff)

WASHINGTON, Jan. 16, 2018 — Defense Secretary James N. Mattis has highlighted the efforts aimed at strengthening diplomatic avenues for a secure, prosperous and denuclearized Korean Peninsula.

Mattis spoke to reporters yesterday while en route to Vancouver, British Columbia, for the Foreign Ministers’ Meeting on Security and Stability on the Korean Peninsula.

“The situation we face I would call it sobering,” Mattis said. “But this meeting is designed to still make progress diplomatically, such as you’ve seen with three unanimous Security Council resolutions over these last months.”

Republic of Korea (ROK) Tanks with 1st Tank Battalion, 1st Marine Division, head off firing line in formation after Battel Sight Zeroing their Tanks during Korea Marine Exercise Program (KMEP) 17-6 at SuSong Ri Range, Pohang, Republic of Korea, on March 23, 2017. The purpose of KMEP 17-6 is to enhance and improve the interoperability of both U.S. Marine Corps and Republic of Korea Marines at the tactical level to build warfighting capabilities as partners. This includes ground combat element staff planning, mechanized maneuvers, mountain warfare training, bilateral tank operations and live fire ranges. (Marine Corps photo by MCIPAC Combat Camera Cpl. Anthony Morales)

Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland is co-hosting the foreign ministers’ meeting today and tomorrow with U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

Mattis said his role in the conference is to provide the military situation, then leave the meeting in the hands of Tillerson and the foreign ministers.

Effort firmly in diplomatic realm

“I just want to emphasize this, because this shows that this effort right now is firmly in the diplomatic realm,” he said. “That is where we are working it.”

Mattis did note that military options do exist if North Korea were to launch an attack. However, he reiterated the goal of strengthening diplomatic efforts.

Diplomatic initiatives are “starting to go in the right direction,” he said, noting developments such as North Korea saying it would send athletes and musicians to South Korea next month during the Winter Olympics.

Mattis traveled on today to visit the 366th Fighter Wing, known as the “Gunfighters,” located at Mountain Home Air Force Base in Idaho. He said he wanted to discuss readiness with the airmen there.

“They are deployable fighter squadrons under that wing, and they are the ones who are training alongside the Singaporean air force there over the Snake River in Denver,” he pointed out.

(Follow Lisa Ferdinando on Twitter: @FerdinandoDoD)

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