After a successful ICBM launch into Japanese waters that had South Korea and Japan ready to slap on more sanctions and test more of their own missiles, North Korea has shown no signs of slowing down its nuclear program. The heightened tensions have put pressure on US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis to reevaluate the United States’ approach to North Korea.
But Mattis told media at the Pentagon “I am not willing to say that diplomacy has not worked,” when asked if the launch of North Korea’s Hwasong-15 missile meant that a diplomatic approach with North Korea just hasn’t worked. He added, “We will continue to work diplomatically, we will continue to work through the United Nations, the United Nations Security Council and we will be unrelenting in that.”
Mattis previously stated that the focus of the US should be on “protection, defense of our country and our allies” because “this will buy time for the diplomats to resolve this situation.” He believes that “we have to work with our allies to ensure that they know they have no military option, and allow the diplomats to solve the issue.” Mattis also said that North Korea would have to stop testing, developing, and exporting weapons to be given an “opportunity for talks.”
However, concerns about the amount of effort the US is putting into what he feels are inefficient pressure tactics is concerning to Russian lawmaker Alexei Chepa, a member of the Russian parliamentary delegation to North Korea. Chepa said: “They are not scared by sanctions at all, they will not abandon their nuclear program only because of them. As the head of parliament told us, they are ready to live under those sanctions for a century.”
After talks between Russia and North Korea, Russian lawmaker Vitaly Pashin said North Korea would participate in negotiations with the US if Russia were involved as a third party. The United States has so far been attempting to persuade China to put pressure on North Korea. The US and Chinese military officials recently met to discuss “how to manage crises, prevent miscalculations, and reduce the risk of misunderstanding.” In addition, according to ABC News, US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley said President Trump told Chinese President Xi Jinping during their conversation after the North Korean missile launch to cut off oil supplies to North Korea.