Defense Secretary Jim Mattis on Sunday shot back at North Korea's latest nuclear provocation with a blunt threat, saying the US will answer any North Korean threat with a "massive military response — a response both effective and overwhelming." While he said America does not seek the "total annihilation" of the North, he added somberly, "We have many options to do so." In a brief statement to reporters outside the White House, Mattis said the international community is unified in demanding the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula and said leader Kim Jong Un should know that Washington's commitment to Japan and South Korea is unshakeable, the AP reports. Earlier, President Donald Trump raised the stakes in the escalating crisis over North Korea's nuclear threats, suggesting drastic economic measures against China and criticizing ally South Korea.
Mattis said, "Any threat to the United States or its territories, including Guam, or our allies will be met with a massive military response -- a response both effective and overwhelming." Those words alone were within the usual bounds of US commentary on answering North Korean aggression. But he seemed to take it a step further with the reference to "total annihilation." Mattis, who did not take questions from reporters, said he had attended a "small group" national security meeting with Trump and others. He said the president wanted to be briefed on each of what Mattis called "many military options" for action against North Korea. "We made clear that we have the ability to defend ourselves and our allies, South Korea, and Japan, from any attacks, and our commitments among the allies are ironclad," he said. (Read more North Korea stories.)