On Wednesday, Defense Secretary James Mattis issued a warning to the North Korean regime that made President Trump’s “the fire and the fury” rant seem downright staid by comparison. According to Mattis:
The United States and our allies have the demonstrated capabilities and unquestionable commitment to defend ourselves from an attack. Kim Jong Un should take heed of the United Nations Security Council’s unified voice, and statements from governments the world over, who agree the DPRK [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea] poses a threat to global security and stability. The DPRK must choose to stop isolating itself and stand down its pursuit of nuclear weapons. The DPRK should cease any consideration of actions that would lead to the end of its regime and the destruction of its people.
That’s some pretty harsh language from a man with significant credibility in the business of breaking things and killing people.
It’s also a warning North Korea should heed. One of the big questions about Trump’s rhetoric on Tuesday was whether it was merely overheated Trumpian superlative-laden nonsense. That question was exacerbated by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s statements this morning that Trump was not attempting to escalate the military threat inherent in the situation.
But Mattis isn’t Trump, and doesn’t merely spit hot fire for the sake of doing so. If Mattis is talking openly about “the end of its regime and the destruction of its people,” that means that military options are almost certainly on the table. And that means that China will be paying attention, and ought to put significant pressure on Kim Jung Un to step aside or at least back down.
It is, as the kids say, lit.