The threat of nuclear missile attack by North Korea is accelerating, US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said Saturday, accusing the North of illegal and unnecessary missile and nuclear programs and pledging to repel any strike, the AP reports. In remarks in Seoul with South Korean Defense Minister Song Young-moo at his side, Mattis said North Korea engages in "outlaw" behavior and that the US will never accept a nuclear North. The Pentagon chief added that regardless of what the North might try, it is overmatched by the firepower and cohesiveness of the decades-old US-South Korean alliance. "North Korea has accelerated the threat that it poses to its neighbors and the world through its illegal and unnecessary missile and nuclear weapons programs," he said, adding that US-South Korean military and diplomatic collaboration thus has taken on "a new urgency."
As he emphasized throughout his weeklong Asia trip, which included stops in Thailand and the Philippines, Mattis said diplomacy remains the preferred way to deal with the North. "With that said," he added, "make no mistake—any attack on the United States or our allies will be defeated, and any use of nuclear weapons by the North will be met with a massive military response that is effective and overwhelming." Mattis' comments did not go beyond his recent statements of concern about North Korea, although he appeared to inject a stronger note about the urgency of resolving the crisis. Song said at the news conference that he and Mattis agreed to further cooperation on strengthening Seoul's defense capabilities.