Still, he warned Pyongyang that the North’s military was no match for the U.S.-South Korean alliance, and that diplomacy was most effective “when backed by credible military force.”
“Make no mistake – any attack on the United States, or our allies, will be defeated. And any use of nuclear weapons will be met with a massive military response that is both effective and overwhelming,” Mr Mattis said in prepared remarks.
Mr Mattis suggested, however, that Pyongyang needed to understand that its weapons programs would not strengthen its defenses. The North says it wants a nuclear-tipped missile capable of reaching the United States.
“If it remains on its current path of ballistic missiles and atomic bombs, it will be counter-productive, in effect reducing its security,” Mr Mattis said.
U.S. intelligence experts say Pyongyang believes it needs the nuclear weapons to ensure its survival and have been skeptical about diplomatic efforts, focusing on sanctions, to get Pyongyang to denuclearize.