US Secretary of Defense James Mattis
US Defense Secretary James Mattis has said the American military "remains ready" for conflict with North Korea following the country’s latest ballistic missile test, but added that he does not believe Washington is "closer to war" with Pyongyang.
"I do not believe this capability in itself brings us closer to war because the president's been very clear, the secretary of State's been very clear, that we are leading with diplomatic and economic efforts," Mattis told reporters at the Pentagon on Thursday.
He added the diplomatic effort includes economic sanctions that are supported by "the military position that we're taking right now."
“The military remains ready in accordance with our alliance with Japan, with [South] Korea. We stand ready to provide options if they are necessary,” he stated.
North Korea announced on Tuesday it had successfully tested an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), which Pyongyang claimed could “reach anywhere in the world.”
US intelligence agencies said the missile was most likely a new ICBM with an estimated range of 5,500 kilometers (3,400 miles), capable of hitting Alaska.
This picture taken on July 4, 2017 shows North Korea's new two-stage missile. (Photo by AFP)
The North, currently under a raft of crippling United Nations sanctions over its military programs, says it will continue them until the US ends its hostility toward the country.
Earlier in the day, US President Donald Trump threatened North Korea with “consequences” following its latest ballistic missile test and warned Russia to stop supporting Syria and destabilizing Ukraine.
Trump said he was considering a “severe” response to Pyongyang’s “very bad behavior.”
Commenting on Trump’s remarks, Mattis said the Pentagon maintains military options for the president to respond to North Korea.
“Right now, we are working with allies. We are working with ... the Chinese,” he said. “But obviously, any kind of effort by North Korea to start a war would lead to severe consequences.”
“I believe President Trump has made it clear, we don't set redlines, we deal with reality,” he added.
The Trump administration has repeatedly said in recent months that all options are on the table, and has deployed a strike group and a nuclear-powered submarine to the region in a show of force.
North Korea has threatened the US with a nuclear attack in case of a direct military action, and has indicated that weapons tests would continue more frequently.

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