1 . SOUNDBITE (English) James Mattis, US Secretary of Defense:
"I cannot imagine in light of Kim's (Jong Un) expanded outlaw activities that all the world has experienced, observed, over this last year or two, I can't imagine a condition under which the United States will accept North Korea as a nuclear power."
2 . SOUNDBITE (English) James Mattis, US Secretary of Defense:
"We must recognize the reality that this a regime, a Kim regime, north of the DMZ that threatens peace and stability and certainly directly against the people of the ROK (Republic of Korea). So our combined effort is to deter that sort of threat or to have military options, many different military options, that would realistically reduce that threat as low as possible. And yes, we do have those options."
U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said Saturday the threat of nuclear missile attack by North Korea is accelerating.
In remarks in Seoul with South Korean Defense Minister Song Young-moo at his side, Mattis accused the North of illegal and unnecessary missile and nuclear programs - and vowed to defeat any attack.
Mattis said North Korea engages in "outlaw" behavior and that the U.S. will never accept a nuclear North.
He added that regardless of what the North might try, it is overmatched by the firepower and cohesiveness of the decades-old U.S.-South Korean alliance.
"I cannot imagine a condition under which the United States would accept North Korea as a nuclear power," he said.
As he emphasized throughout his weeklong Asia trip, which included stops in Thailand and the Philippines, Mattis said diplomacy remains the preferred way to deal with the North.
Mattis' comments did not go beyond his recent statements of concern about North Korea, although he appeared to inject a stronger note about the urgency of resolving the crisis.
While he accused the North of "outlaw" behavior, he did not mention that President Donald Trump has ratcheted up his own rhetoric. In August, Trump warned the North not to make any more threats against the United States, and said that if it did, it would be met with "fire and fury like the world has never seen."
Song, the South Korean minister, told the news conference that he and Mattis agreed to further cooperation on strengthening Seoul's defense capabilities, including lifting warhead payload limits on South Korean conventional missiles and supporting the country's acquisition of "most advanced military assets." He offered no specifics and refused to answer when asked whether the discussions included nuclear-powered submarines.
Trump entered office declaring his commitment to solving the North Korea problem, asserting that he would succeed where his predecessors had failed. His administration has sought to increase pressure on Pyongyang through U.N. Security Council sanctions and other diplomatic efforts, but the North hasn't budged from its goal of building a full-fledged nuclear arsenal, including missiles capable of striking the U.S. mainland.
If Trump sticks to his pledge to stop the North from being able to threaten the U.S. with a nuclear attack, something will have to give - either a negotiated tempering of the North's ambitions or a U.S. acceptance of the North as a nuclear power.
The other alternative would be U.S. military action to attempt to neutralize or eliminate the North's nuclear assets - a move fraught with risk for South Korea, Japan and the United States.
At his Seoul news conference, Mattis said the North is, in effect, shooting itself in the foot.
Mattis touched off unease in South Korea last month when he told reporters at the Pentagon that the United States has military options for North Korea that doesn't put Seoul at risk. At Saturday's briefing, Mattis didn't offer a direct answer to what those options are or how and when they would be used.
"Our military options as I mentioned are designed to buttress the diplomats' efforts to maintain a deterrence stance and denuclearize the Korean Peninsula," he said. While the allies are committed to deterring North Korea, they also need "many different military options that would realistically reduce that threat as low as possible," Mattis said.
"And yes, we do have those options," he said.
The North says it needs nuclear weapons to counter what it believes is a U.S. effort to strangle its economy and overthrow the Kim government.
This was Mattis's second visit to South Korea since taking office in January. He made a point of going to Seoul and Tokyo on his first overseas trip in February, saying he wanted to emphasis the importance he places on strengthening alliances and partnerships.