"Do we have military options in defense if we're attacked, [or if] our allies are attacked? Of course we do. But everyone is out for a peaceful resolution," Mattis said Thursday. The US is not "rushing to war" with North Korea despite Pyongyang's continued nuclear weapons and ballistic missile development programs, the Marine Corps general noted.
North Korea conducted its six nuclear test this year and continues to refine its ballistic missile technology through a series of missile launches.
Mattis met with Thai officials Thursday after attending a meeting with defense officials from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) the day before, Agence France-Presse reports.
The Pentagon chief's comments contrast starkly with US President Donald Trump's threats directed at the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK). "Sorry, but only one thing will work!" the president tweeted October 7. "Our country has been unsuccessfully dealing with North Korea for 25 years."
Trump's attacks on "Rocket Man" Kim Jong-un have reportedly caused Pyongyang to shut down diplomatic channels with Washington at almost the exact moment when Mattis has called for keeping "efforts firmly in the diplomatic lane for resolution."
Experts have estimated that a conflict on the Korean Peninsula wouldn't come close to resembling the wars in Iraq, Libya or Afghanistan, in which the casualty lists were relatively one-sided and spread out — a UN report in January 2006 estimated that after three years of war and insurgency, 34,000 Iraqi civilians had been killed. By contrast, as many as 20,000 South Koreans would die per day, according to US Defense Department estimates.