President Donald Trump’s top diplomat and defense secretary stressed that a military response to a North Korean aggression remained on the table Thursday, one day after the president’s White House strategist said that there can be no military solution to the crisis.
The retort from Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis comes amid rising tension between the president’s national security team and the White House strategist, Steve Bannon.
At a joint news conference Thursday, Messrs. Mattis and Tillerson affirmed that North Korea would face dire consequences if it went ahead with an attack. In an interview published in the American Prospect Wednesday, Mr. Bannon said there was no military solution because tens of millions in South Korea would die in the first 30 minutes of any conflict.
In response to a question from reporters, Mr. Tillerson declined to comment on Mr. Bannon’s interview, but said that the U.S. was prepared to use force against North Korea even if a diplomatic solution was preferable.
Mr. Tillerson said the current approach toward North Korea, outlined in an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal, was “endorsed by the president” and that he and Mr. Mattis review it with him periodically. The op-ed said the U.S. diplomatic effort is “backed by military options.”
“Any diplomatic effort in any situation where you have this level of threat that we’re confronted with… has to be backed by a strong military consequence if North Korea chooses wrongly,” said Mr. Tillerson, who appeared at the news conference along with Mr. Mattis and Japan’s foreign minister and minister of defense.
Mr. Mattis echoed the comments and said “there are strong military consequences if the DPRK initiates hostilities.”
Source: Wall Street Journal
Analysis: It still isn’t clear why Bannon would call a reporter to directly contradict President Trump and his national security team regarding North Korean strategy, especially at a time when the White House is working to assure allies South Korea and Japan, and near-peer competitor China, the U.S. is committed to neutralizing North Korean threats as they arise. But the message from Mattis and Tillerson is the one that Pyongyang should be paying attention to: The administration will use force against North Korea if certain lines are crossed, and they could not be clearer about that than they were yesterday.