When asked about the Pentagon's North Korea strategy, US Secretary of Defense James Mattis said at an annual meeting with the military that despite Washington sticking to the "diplomatically-led economic sanctions buttressed effort" to convince Pyongyang to "turn off this [nuclear program] path," the US Army should be "ready to ensure that we have military options that our president can employ if needed."
"[North] Korea is in all of our minds, and you know there is a reason," Mattis said, adding, "What does the future hold? Neither you nor I can say."
He emphasized that currently, Washington resorts to diplomacy, adding that the UN Security Council twice in a row voted unanimously in favor of imposing stronger sanctions on Pyongyang over its ballistic and nuclear missile launches.
"The international community has spoken, but that means the US Army must stand ready," Mattis said.
Mattis' statement comes after last week US President Donald Trump's tweets suggested that Washington might be considering a military option regarding North Korea. Most recently, the US president said that "only one thing will work" with regard to Pyongyang as "talking to North Korea for 25 years, agreements made and massive amounts of money paid hasn't worked."we'll do what has to be done."
Meanwhile, earlier this week a Russian lawmaker, who has just returned from North Korea, claimed that Pyongyang is ready to test a missile capable of reaching the US western coast. The Pentagon responded by telling Sputnik that it is "closely" watching North Korea.
The North Korean nuclear and missile test issue has been aggravated in recent months as Pyongyang has held several rounds of missile launches and nuclear tests. The most recent one was conducted on September 15, when North Korea launched a ballistic missile, which flew over Japan before falling into the northern Pacific some 20 minutes after the launch.
On September 11, the UN Security Council unanimously adopted its toughest resolution yet against North Korea over its latest nuclear test and repeated missile launches. The move prompted harsh criticism from Pyongyang which subsequently vowed to use any means possible to retaliate against the United States.