US defence chief Jim Mattis says North Korea missile test doesn't bring war closer

Mattis speaks to reporters aboard a military jet as he heads to Europe, June 27, 2017.
Mattis speaks to reporters aboard a military jet as he heads to Europe, June 27, 2017.PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON (AFP) – Pentagon chief Jim Mattis on Thursday (July 6) slammed North Korea’s test launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile as a “provocation,” but stressed the United States seeks a diplomatic solution to the standoff.

“As (Winston) Churchill put it, better to jaw-jaw than war-war. We (are) right now dealing with this very serious escalation, this provocation, this affront to the United Nations Security Council resolutions,” Mattis said, in his first public comments since Tuesday’s test.

“We remain in a diplomatic effort engaging allies and partner nations across the board.” Mattis spoke to reporters at the Pentagon hours after President Donald Trump said he was considering a “pretty severe” response to the ICBM test.

While the Pentagon has drawn up an array of plans for a possible military intervention in North Korea, Mattis said he did not think America was closer to war because of the test.

“I do not believe this capability in itself brings us closer to war because the president has been very clear, and the secretary of state has been very clear, that we are leading with diplomatic and economic efforts,” he said.

Still, Mattis said any effort by North Korea to start a conflict would have “serious consequences.”

“We stand ready to provide options if they are necessary, but this is a purely diplomatically led (effort) with economic sanctions and buttressed by the military position that we are taking right now,” said the Pentagon chief.