US Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, pauses during a press conference after a meeting, in Copenhagen, Denmark, May 9, 2017. (Stine Tidsvilde/Ritzau Foto via AP)
WASHINGTON - US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis warned on Friday that military solution to the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) nuclear issue would be "tragic on an unbelievable scale."
So our effort is to work with the UN, work with China, work with Japan, work with South Korea to try to find a way out of this situation
Jim Mattis, US Defense Secretary
"So our effort is to work with the UN, work with China, work with Japan, work with South Korea to try to find a way out of this situation," said Mattis at a Pentagon briefing.
Tension has remained high on the Korean Peninsula over the past months between the United States and the DPRK over the US threat to stage military attacks against Pyongyang in response to its nuclear and missile programs.
The United States and the Republic of Korea (ROK) also held their largest-ever joint military exercises in the past two months. At the end of April, the USS Carl Vinson nuclear aircraft carrier task group arrived in the waters off the Korean Peninsula for a separate joint naval exercise with the ROK.
However, a joint statement by US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Mattis and National Intelligence Director Dan Coats said last month that Trump aims to use economic sanctions and diplomatic measures to pressure the DPRK to dismantle its nuclear and missile programs.
The statement also said that the United States remained "open to negotiations" toward peaceful denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula while staying "prepared to defend ourselves and our allies."
For the situation in Afghanistan, Mattis said the Pentagon had not made any recommendations on US troop levels for the Asian country to the White House.
"On the number of troops, no, I have not made a recommendation yet," said Mattis. "That recommendation is being put together by the chairman (of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff Joseph Dunford) and myself, and I expect it'll go to decision very very soon."
US media reported earlier this month that Trump was close to decide on whether to send hundreds of additional US troops to Afghanistan.
Former US President Barack Obama had planned to reduce the current number of 9,800 US troops in Afghanistan to some 5,500 by the end of 2015 and withdraw all troops by the end of 2016 when his presidency came to an end.
However, given the deteriorating security situation in Afghanistan, the Obama administration repeatedly postponed the withdrawal.
Currently, there are about 8,400 US troops and another 5,000 NATO forces in Afghanistan to train and assist Afghan forces against the Taliban and conduct counter-terrorism missions.