"A War We Don't Want": Defense Secretary Mattis Explains What War with North Korea Would Look Like
June 18, 2017 Alex Lockie / Business Insider & Arielle Berger and Sara Silverstein / Business Insider
Asked why the US doesn't just go to war to stop North Korea from developing the capability to hit the US, Secretary of Defense James Mattis painted a grim scenario: "It will be a war more serious in terms of human suffering than anything we've seen since 1953. It will involve the massive shelling of an ally's capital, which is one of the most densely packed cities on earth [with ametro-area population of 25 million]. "It would be a war that fundamentally we don't want."
Defense Secretary Mattis Explains
What War with North Korea Would Look Like Alex Lockie / Business Insider
(June 16, 2017) -- Asked on Thursday by Rep. Tim Ryan of the House Appropriations Committee to explain why the US doesn't just go to war to stop North Korea from developing the capability to hit the US, Secretary of Defense James Mattis painted a grim scenario.
"I would suggest that we will win," Mattis said. "It will be a war more serious in terms of human suffering than anything we've seen since 1953.
"It will involve the massive shelling of an ally's capital, which is one of the most densely packed cities on earth," Mattis said of Seoul, South Korea, which boasts a metro-area population of 25 million. "It would be a war that fundamentally we don't want," Mattis said, but "we would win at great cost."
Mattis explained that because the threat from North Korea loomed so large and a military confrontation would destroy so much, he, President Donald Trump, and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had all made a peaceful solution a top priority.
Mattis said the topic of North Korea dominated Trump's meeting in April with President Xi Jinping of China, North Korea's only ally, and that the US intended to make China understand that "North Korea today is a strategic burden, not a strategic asset."
China argues it has limited influence on Pyongyang, but as one expert explained, Beijing could at any moment cripple North Korea through trade means, forcing it to come to the negotiating table.
Mattis made clear that the US was nearing the end of its rope in dealing with North Korea, saying: "We're exhausting all possible diplomatic efforts in this regard."
North Korea recently taunted Trump by saying it was capable of hitting New York with a nuclear missile, but Mattis said a war today would hurt our Asian allies.
"It would be a serious, a catastrophic war, especially for innocent people in some of our allied countries, to include Japan most likely," Mattis said.
(June 2, 2017) -- Geopolitical analyst and president of the Eurasia Group Ian Bremmer explains how North Korea is more capable and dangerous now than it has been in recent memory, and how a Trump administration could lead to a real breakthrough or a real war. Following is a transcript of the video.
Over the past 15, 20 years, the North Korea situation has looked like a normal distribution. In other words, you'd have a very thin outcome, thin likelihood of a breakthrough that could bring peace, a very thin likelihood of war, and just this general status quo of a rogue state that treats its people like dirt, like animals.
Now, you have an environment where it's gotten a lot worse, where they're much more dangerous, where they're much more willing and capable to cause problems internationally.
Trump, as president focused on these issues, has basically taken both of the thin, tail end distribution outcomes in North Korea, and he's made them bigger.
There's a real possibility that Trump could actually say to the North Koreans, "I'm prepared to meet with Kim Jong Un." And there could be a real breakthrough. And he could get -- if that happened, he gets a Nobel. Frankly, he'd deserve a Nobel for that much more than Obama did for his. There's no question there.
But there's also a real possibility of a war. The fact that Trump has said that it is unacceptable for the North Koreans to develop the capability to hit the American homeland, at least California and the west coast, that he'll stop them, he won't let them do that.
Now, he says the Chinese are going to help us, and the Chinese are doing a little, but not enough to force the North Koreans to the table. It's much more likely than not that any American entreaties will fail. Chinese, South Korean entreaties will fail.
So ultimately, either the US backs down and accepts this continued, slow deterioration of the status quo, or the US does something. Like, engages in direct strikes against North Korea. Here, you're kind of hitting a box. You don't know what's in the box. You don't know if the box is going to fall apart, you don't know what's going to come out of the box. It's pretty dangerous.
There's a real danger that over the course of a Trump administration that the US will be at war with North Korea and that millions of people in the region will die. I don't say that lightly. I think it's possible. I don't think it's likely. But, it's not 1%.
And a year ago, five years ago, the likelihood of major military confrontation between the United States and major countries with real military capability was effectively zero, it was close to zero. That's not true anymore, and North Korea is probably the place where it's most dangerous.
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