U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis asserted during a foreign trip that diplomacy, not military action, should be the answer to defusing the North Korean nuclear program. President Donald Trump has repeatedly signaled that he does not believe diplomacy is possible between the U.S. and North Korea.
On Oct. 26, Mattis visited the Panmunjom military observation post in the Demilitarized Zone that separates North and South Korea.
The defense secretary asserted during his remarks before U.S. and South Korean troops that his department was seeking a diplomatic solution to the global tensions stirred by North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un's regime, Politico reports.
"We're doing everything we can to solve this diplomatically -- everything we can," Mattis said.
"Ultimately, our diplomats have to be backed up by strong soldiers and sailors, airmen and Marines, so they speak from a position of strength, of alliance strength, shoulder to shoulder," the defense secretary added.
Mattis also described the Kim government as "an oppressive regime that shackles its people, denying their freedom, their welfare and their human dignity in pursuit of nuclear weapons and their means of delivery in order to threaten others with catastrophe."
That same day, the Trump administration implemented sanctions against 10 North Korean officials and organizations; meanwhile, the U.S. Navy announced that three aircraft carrier strike groups would perform military exercises in the Asia Pacific region in November.
Trump has signaled on social media that he views military action against North Korea as inevitable. On Oct. 7, the president asserted on Twitter that diplomacy would not compel the Kim regime to end its nuclear program.
"Presidents and their administrations have been talking to North Korea for 25 years, agreements made and massive amounts of money paid ... hasn't worked, agreements violated before the ink was dry, making fools of U.S. negotiators," Trump tweeted out.
The president added: "Sorry, but only one thing will work!"
The Kim regime has asserted that Trump's rhetoric on Twitter amounted to a declaration of war, NPR reports.
On Sept. 25, North Korean foreign minister Ri Yong Ho stated: "Trump had ultimately declared war ... by saying regarding our leadership, that he will make it unable to last longer."
Trump is scheduled to visit five Asian countries from Nov. 3 to Nov. 14. The president will meet with South Korean officials during his trip, The Hill reports.
"The president's engagements will strengthen the international resolve to confront the North Korean threat and ensure the complete, verifiable, and irreversible denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula," the White House said in a statement.