Mattis and counterparts: North Korea poses a 'grave threat'

Secretary of Defense meets Asian counterparts for discussions on North Korea.

Ben Ariel ,

James Mattis
James Mattis

North Korea's weapons programs pose "an unprecedented and grave threat" to the United States, South Korea and Japan, defense ministers from the three countries warned Tuesday, according to a report by the AFP news agency.

U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis and his Asian counterparts vowed to step up diplomatic pressure on Pyongyang while enhancing military cooperation as they held security talks in the Philippines.

Tension has been high on the divided Korean peninsula over the last several months with Pyongyang staging its sixth nuclear test and launching two ICBMs that apparently brought much of the U.S. mainland into range.

"The three ministers condemned, in the strongest terms, North Korea's continued provocative actions," read a joint statement from Mattis, Japanese defense minister Itsunori Onodera and South Korean defense minister Song Young-Moo.

"The ministers called on North Korea to abandon its unlawful nuclear and ballistic missile programs in a complete, verifiable, and irreversible manner," added the statement, according to AFP.

The allies also pledged to enforce United Nations sanctions against the North, and expand information sharing.

Mattis recently urged military leaders "to be ready" with military options for President Donald Trump to deal with North Korea should diplomacy fail.

Trump subsequently met with his national security team to discuss what was described as "a range of options" on North Korea in response to its increasing nuclear ambitions.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, however, has said that the president prefers diplomacy and last week vowed he would continue his diplomatic efforts vis-a-vis North Korea “until the first bomb drops.”

North Korea has rejected diplomacy so far and has vowed that its nuclear tests will continue, citing “self-defense”.