"I cannot imagine a condition under which the United States would accept North Korea as a nuclear power," US Defense Secretary James Mattis said on Saturday in Seoul during a meeting with his counterpart, South Korean Defense Minister Song Young-moo.
The US defense official, however, added that "diplomacy remains the preferred way" to deal with Pyongyang, which comes as an apparent change in the rhetoric of Washington regarding North Korea's nuclear program.
In response to the call of some South Korean conservative politicians to bring back US tactical nuclear weapons that were withdrawn from the Korean Peninsula in the 1990s, both the US and South Korean Defense Ministers rejected the idea.
James Mattis was on his week-long trip to Asia, which included stops in Thailand and the Philippines.
Meanwhile, according to the latest report of the American-based website NK News, North Korea has conducted mass evacuation exercises in cities and towns across the country, excluding Pyongyang. The drills also included ‘blackout’ exercises, when "whole towns would turn out all the lights at night time so as to avoid illuminating enemy targets."
The outlet suggested that the drills came as "wartime preparations."