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Mattis Highlights Diplomatic Solution for North Korean Situation

WASHINGTON --

Defense Secretary James N. Mattis has highlighted the efforts aimed at strengthening diplomatic avenues for a secure, prosperous and denuclearized Korean Peninsula.

Mattis spoke to reporters yesterday while en route to Vancouver, British Columbia, for the Foreign Ministers’ Meeting on Security and Stability on the Korean Peninsula.

“The situation we face I would call it sobering,” Mattis said. “But this meeting is designed to still make progress diplomatically, such as you’ve seen with three unanimous Security Council resolutions over these last months.” 

Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland is co-hosting the foreign ministers’ meeting today and tomorrow with U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

Mattis said his role in the conference is to provide the military situation, then leave the meeting in the hands of Tillerson and the foreign ministers.

Effort Firmly in Diplomatic Realm

“I just want to emphasize this, because this shows that this effort right now is firmly in the diplomatic realm,” he said. “That is where we are working it.” 

Mattis did note that military options do exist if North Korea were to launch an attack. However, he reiterated the goal of strengthening diplomatic efforts.

Diplomatic initiatives are “starting to go in the right direction,” he said, noting developments such as North Korea saying it would send athletes and musicians to South Korea next month during the Winter Olympics.

Mattis traveled on today to visit the 366th Fighter Wing, known as the "Gunfighters," located at Mountain Home Air Force Base in Idaho. He said he wanted to discuss readiness with the airmen there.

“They are deployable fighter squadrons under that wing, and they are the ones who are training alongside the Singaporean air force there over the Snake River in Denver,” he pointed out.

(Follow Lisa Ferdinando on Twitter: @FerdinandoDoD)