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North Korea Remains Most Urgent Threat to Peace

U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis gives a speech about "The United States and Asia-Pacific Security" at the first plenary session at the 2017 International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) Shangri-la Dialogue, an annual defense and security forum in Asia, Saturday, June 3, 2017 in Singapore. (AP Photo/Joseph Nair)

“Coupled with reckless proclamations, the current North Korean program signals a clear intent to acquire nuclear armed ballistic missiles.”

The most urgent and dangerous threat to peace and security in the Asia-Pacific is North Korea, said U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. Speaking in Singapore, he noted the North Korean regime has increased the pace and the scope of its nuclear program in recent months.

North Korea’s nuclear program is a threat to all. “Coupled with reckless proclamations, the current North Korean program signals a clear intent to acquire nuclear armed ballistic missiles,” said Secretary Mattis, “including those of intercontinental range that pose direct and immediate threats to our regional allies, our partners and all the world.”

There is a strong international consensus that the current situation cannot continue. The U.S. is encouraged by China's renewed commitment to work with the international community toward denuclearization. “Ultimately,” said Secretary Mattis, “we believe China will come to recognize North Korea as a strategic liability, not an asset.”

As China's President Xi said in April, "Only if all sides live up to their responsibilities and come together from different directions can the nuclear issues on the peninsula be resolved as quickly as possible."

“I agree with the president's words on this point, and those words must be followed by actions by all of us.” said Secretary Mattis.

The United States is coordinating at the United Nations and with its allies and partners to apply new pressure on North Korea to choose to abandon the its dangerous path. As Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said before the United Nations in April, the goal is get North Korea to “finally and permanently abandon its nuclear and ballistic missiles programs."

The United States will maintain its close cooperation with the Republic of Korea and Japan. “Our commitment to the defense of the Republic of Korea and Japan, to include the employment of our most advanced capabilities, is ironclad,” said Secretary Mattis.

Moreover, the U.S. will take further steps to protect the U.S. homeland, as demonstrated by the recent successful ballistic missile defense test.

As Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has made clear, the era of strategic patience is over.