Defense secretary says North Korea ICBM launch doesn't bring US closer to war

PHOTO: This picture taken on July 4, 2017 and released by North Koreas official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on July 5, 2017 shows the successful test-fire of the intercontinental ballistic missile Hwasong-14 at an undisclosed location.PlayAFP/Getty Images
WATCH Trump's stern warning to North Korea

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis stressed Thursday that the Trump administration is focused on diplomatic efforts to deal with North Korea's launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile and does not believe the country's new missile capability will lead to war.

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"I do not believe this capability in itself brings us closer to war, because the president's been very clear, the secretary of state has been very clear that we are leading with diplomatic and economic efforts," Mattis told reporters at the Pentagon on Thursday.

He repeatedly said that the Trump administration will use diplomacy first in dealing with North Korea's new ICBM capability. Though he noted that the U.S. military stands ready "to provide options if they're necessary, but this is purely diplomatically led, with economic sanctions and buttressed by the military position, that we're taking right now."

Asked about such diplomatic efforts, which have so far proved unsuccessful in containing North Korea's missile program, Mattis referred to comments made yesterday by Gen. Vince Brooks, the commander of U.S. troops in South Korea.

"Diplomacy has not failed," Mattis said. "As Gen. Brooks said it so well, it is our self-restraint that has prevented war in the face of provocations."

"As [Winston] Churchill put it, it's better to jaw-jaw than war-war," said Mattis.

At a news conference in Warsaw, Poland, President Trump referred to the North Korean missile launch and said, "I have pretty severe things that we're thinking about. That doesn't mean that we'll do them. I don't draw red lines."

"They are behaving in a very, very dangerous manner," he said. "And something will have to be done about it."

Mattis said that Trump "maintains military options for the commander in chief and works in accordance with our whole government effort."

"Obviously, any kind of effort by North Korea to start a war would lead to severe consequences," Mattis added.

He echoed Trump's comments, saying, "We don't set red lines. We deal with reality. And we'll deal with any reality, and we have the capability to do so, in league with our allies. And right now that effort is being led by Secretary of State [Rex] Tillerson."

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