WASHINGTON (AFP) - US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis warned that war with North Korea would be "catastrophic" and said diplomatic efforts were yielding results.
Speaking at an event in California on Thursday (Aug 10) , Mattis said his mission and responsibility was to have military options ready "should they be needed" but stressed the US effort is currently focused on diplomacy.
"The American effort is diplomatically led, it has diplomatic traction, it is gaining diplomatic results and I want to stay right there right now," Mattis said.
"The tragedy of war is well-enough known it doesn't need another characterisation beyond the fact that it would be catastrophic," he added.
His comments came shortly after President Donald Trump warned North Korea it should be "very, very nervous" if it thinks of attacking America, and doubled down on a vow to rain "fire and fury" on Pyongyang if it continued to threaten the US.
Mattis did not elaborate on the diplomatic results he referenced, but the UN Security Council at the weekend passed a new set of sanctions against Pyongyang over its weapons program, including bans on the export of coal, iron and iron ore, lead and lead ore as well as fish and seafood.
In a diplomatic win for the United States, the measures were approved unanimously - including by Russia and China, the North's sole major ally.
The Pentagon chief on Wednesday issued a carefully worded statement telling North Korea it would be "grossly" outmatched in any conflict with the US, and warning Pyongyang to stop considering any action that risked "the destruction of its people."