Mattis Discusses U.S. Concerns About North Korean, Russian Actions
North Korea is moving in a "very reckless manner" with its nuclear and missile programs, while Russian activities in Afghanistan are also of concern to the United States, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said here today as he discussed cooperation and security concerns with his British counterpart.
The U.S. is working through the United Nations and with allies to address the North Korean nuclear and missile threat, Mattis said in a joint press conference with British Defense Secretary Michael Fallon.
"This is a threat of both rhetoric and growing capability and we will be working with the international community to address this," Mattis said.
The undertaking includes diplomatic moves with "those that we might be able to enlist in this effort to get North Korea under control," according to the secretary, who was on his first trip to the United Kingdom as defense secretary.
"Right now, it appears to be going in a very reckless manner in what its conduct is portraying for the future," Mattis said of North Korea’s government. "That's got to be stopped."
Mattis also expressed concern about Russian activity in Afghanistan.
"We have seen Russian activity vis-à-vis the Taliban," he told reporters.
"I'm not willing to say at this point if that has manifested into weapons and that sort of thing, but certainly what they're up to there in light of their other activities gives us concern," Mattis said.
The United States and Russia no longer have a cooperative engagement, but the U.S. would be interested in engaging with Russia on a political or diplomatic level, Mattis explained.
"Right now, Russia is choosing to be a strategic competitor," Mattis said. "We're finding that we can only have very modest expectations at this point in areas that we can cooperate with Russia, contrary to how we were just 10 years ago [or] five years ago."
Additionally, Mattis said he and Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, are still reviewing recommendations on strategy in Afghanistan.
"We have not made a decision, yet," Mattis said, explaining he and the chairman have received the advice of Army Gen. John W. Nicholson, the commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan and NATO's Resolute Support mission.
"I have not put a recommendation forward to our president at this time," Mattis said.
Defeating ISIS in Syria
Regarding Syria, Mattis said the focus is on the defeating the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.
"We're working this one day at a time, as we throw [ISIS] on to the back foot," he said, noting the terrorists have intentions of striking targets outside of Syria.
"That's an immediate threat that goes to Europe," he said. "We're going to have to keep them on their back foot, and that's what we're concentrating [on] at this point."
(Follow Lisa Ferdinando on Twitter: @FerdinandoDoD)