Pentagon chief says North Korea's nuclear pursuits a 'danger'

Pentagon chief says North Korea's nuclear pursuits a 'danger'

Carla Harmon
June 9, 2017

US Defence Secretary, James Mattis warned that Washington will not accept China's militarisation of man-made islands in the South China Sea.

The nuclear menace posed by North Korea was a leading concern among defence ministers at the annual Shangri-La Dialogue yesterday, amid rising tension over its recent series of missile tests. Those tests include a missile capable of reaching "the USA mainland and Pacific operation region" - according to North Korea's state news agency, at least.

"North Korea's continued pursuit of nuclear weapons and the means to deliver them is not new, but the regime has increased the pace and scope of its efforts", said Mattis.

In line with Mattis' emphasis on helping allies defend their own territory while strengthening USA military muscle in the region, the US has deployed a missile defense system in South Korea known as a Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense system.

Backing fresh sanctions on North Korea, Russia's deputy United Nations ambassador Vladimir Safronkov stressed in June that "the choice here has to be made in favour of using diplomatic tools to the maximum extent possible". "Bear with us, once we have exhausted all possible alternatives, the Americans will do the right thing", Mattis said, paraphrasing a quote often attributed to Winston Churchill. "And we will be with you".

Mattis asked for the order based on legality and insisted that Washington considers the ruling of the Court of Arbitration in The Hague, in favour of the Philippines over the South China Sea disputes with Beijing, binding.

A defiant North Korea on Sunday said it "fully rejects" newly expanded United Nations sanctions over its nuclear and missile tests - blasting the measures as "a crafty hostile act".

The latest resolution condemned "in the strongest terms" North Korea's missile and nuclear weapons activities and demanded that Pyongyang abandon all of its military programs.

The other 13 included senior officials from North Korea's Workers' Party and heads of trading firms tasked with securing purchases for Pyongyang's military programs. "The United States will work tirelessly to make sure that the worldwide community never gets used to North Korea's violations or looks the other way".

"While competition between the USA and China, the world's two largest economies, is bound to occur, conflict is not inevitable", Mattis said. "As a matter of national security, the United States regards the threat from North Korea as a clear and present danger".

Mattis's challenge on his visit is to reassure allies that America can apply pressure on China over its claims in the South China Sea, while at the same time convincing Beijing that controlling North Korea is in its own security interests.

While she said the U.S. wants a negotiated solution to the North's nuclear programme and isn't seeking regime change, she reiterated "all options for responding to future provocations remain on the table".

"Artificial island construction and indisputable militarisation of facilities on features in global waters undermine regional stability", Mattis said, calling China out over its "disregard for worldwide law" and "contempt for other nations' interests".

China blocked tough new sanctions against North Korea that the United States pushed in the U.N. Security Council on Friday.

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