Despite President Donald Trump's threatening rhetoric at the United Nations, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis maintained Tuesday that patient diplomacy rather than military action is the best course in responding to North Korea.
"We are dealing with the North Korea situation through the international process, and we will continue to do so," Mattis said at the Pentagon during a meeting with Adrian Tutuianu, Romania's minister of national defense.
When asked about Trump's comments on "rocket man" Kim Jong-un and his threat to "totally destroy" North Korea, Mattis responded that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is "leading the effort" to reach a peaceful solution, "and we will hopefully get this resolved through diplomatic means," NBC News reported.
In his first address to the U.N. General Assembly, Trump said, "If the righteous many do not confront the wicked few, then evil will triumph," a reference to what he called the "depraved" North Korean regime.
"Rocket man is on a suicide mission," Trump said of Kim's recent test launches of two intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of hitting the U.S. mainland and the underground explosion last month of what Kim claimed was a hydrogen bomb.
"The United States has great strength and patience, but if it is forced to defend itself or its allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea," the president said.
Mattis and Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford have backed up Trump's frequent statements that "all options are on the table" in dealing with North Korea, but they have also warned of the horrific consequences of another war on the Korean peninsula.
Dunford has repeatedly pointed out that military action against the North by the U.S. and its South Korean ally would likely trigger a massive artillery and rocket barrage across the DMZ by the North that would devastate Seoul and the 20 million people in the metropolitan region.
-- Richard Sisk can be reached at Richard.Sisk@Military.com.