Mattis slams N. Korea ‘provocation’ but says focus on diplomacy

WASHINGTON — US Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis on Thursday slammed North Korea’s test launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile as a “provocation,” but stressed the United States seeks a diplomatic solution to the standoff.

“As (Winston) Churchill put it, better to jaw-jaw than war-war. We (are) right now dealing with this very serious escalation, this provocation, this affront to the United Nations Security Council resolutions,” Mattis said in his first public comments since Tuesday’s test.

“We remain in a diplomatic effort engaging allies and partner nations across the board.”

Mattis spoke to reporters at the Pentagon hours after US President Donald Trump said he was considering a “pretty severe” response to the ICBM test.

People watch a TV news program showing a file image of a missile being test-launched by North Korea, at the Seoul Railway Station in Seoul, South Korea, Tuesday, July 4, 2017 (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)

While the Pentagon has drawn up an array of plans for a possible military intervention in North Korea, Mattis said he did not think America was closer to war because of the test.

“I do not believe this capability in itself brings us closer to war because the president has been very clear, and the secretary of state has been very clear, that we are leading with diplomatic and economic efforts,” he said.

Still, Mattis said any effort by North Korea to start a conflict would have “serious consequences.”

“We stand ready to provide options if they are necessary, but this is a purely diplomatically led (effort) with economic sanctions and buttressed by the military position that we are taking right now,” said the Pentagon chief.

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