In a terse statement outside the White House on Sunday afternoon, Mattis said that Trump had been briefed on each of the ‘many military options’ available during a meeting with national security heads.
‘We made it clear that we have the ability to defend ourselves and our allies, South Korea and Japan, from any attack and that our agreements with our allies are iron-clad,’ he said.
‘Any threat to the United States or its territories including Guam, or our allies, will be met with a massive military response, a response both effective and overwhelming.’
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‘We are not looking to the total annihilation of a country – namely North Korea,’ Mattis concluded, ‘but as I said, we have many options to do so.’
He, and Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who had been present but silent throughout, then left without answering any questions. President Trump was not seen during the announcement.
As Mattis and Dunford walked away, the press shouted a series of questions that they declined to answer.
They included ‘Secretary Mattis, do you believe they’ve got a nuclear warhead that could go on a missile?’ ‘Mr. Secretary, is war inevitable?’ and ‘Is the president going to war, Secretary Mattis?’ It’s unclear why Donald Trump was not present for the announcement, but the US’s military leaders may have been chosen to make the calmly-worded warning to add extra gravitas.