Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said in no uncertain terms Saturday that North Korea presented a “clear and present danger,” while also criticizing China for ratcheting up the tension over contested islands in the South China Sea.
His sharp words for both countries suggested he believed China would, out of self-interest, pressure North Korea to halt its nuclear and missile programs even as Washington pushes Beijing to change course in the South China Sea.
Speaking at an international security conference in Singapore, Mattis said the Trump administration was encouraged by China’s renewed commitment to working with the U.S. and others to rid North Korea of its nuclear weapons. He also said he thought Beijing ultimately would see Kim Jong Un’s regime as a liability rather than an asset.
He was, however, unrelentingly critical of North Korea, a politically and economically isolated nation whose leaders have long viewed the United States as a military threat, in part because of periodic U.S. military exercises with South Korea, which the rogue nation sees as preparations for attacks aimed at destroying its ruling elite.
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