U.S. considers shooting down NK missiles that don't pose a direct threat

U.S. considers shooting down NK missiles that don't pose a direct threat

"Those missiles are not directly threatening any of us", the secretary said.

"Were they to be aimed at Guam, or United States territory, that would elicit a different response".

As a first strike would be unlikely to eliminate all of North Korea's conventional and nuclear weapons - not to mention its chemical or biological ones - USA policymakers have traditionally held the view that a pre-emptive strike would likely put an untenable number of civilians at risk.

President Donald Trump, while addressing the United Nations General Assembly Tuesday, warned Kim Jong Un that he would not survive an attack by the United States: "The United States has great strength and patience, but if it is forced to defend itself or its allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea".

USA officials also do not have high confidence that the military could find and destroy North Korea's entire arsenal of long-range missiles and nuclear warheads.

The secretary said the sanctions, which began in 2006, have shown North Korean leader Kim Jong Un that there's a penalty to pay for ignoring worldwide concerns and norms.

"I will not go into details", he said.

Members of the administration have repeatedly emphasized that a range of military options are on the table and Mattis said Monday that the U.S. possess military options that would not put Seoul at risk of a North Korean counterattack with the potential to kill tens of thousands of civilians.

Military experts said options that might not prompt immediate retaliation against Seoul could include cyber warfare, or even an assassination attempt on Kim - though such an attempt would have to be successful.

On Sunday, however, US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said the UN Security Council had run out of options on containing North Korea's nuclear programme and the United States might have to turn the matter over to the Pentagon.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis says the US has not attempted to shoot down any of North Korea's missiles - including two that have recently overflown Japan - because they have not posed a direct threat. Other potential options are a naval blockade of North Korea, or a deployment of additional troops to the region.

Mattis told reporters that he believed diplomacy and sanctions were so far succeeding in putting more pressure on Pyongyang. He argued that the pressure is working, and gave as an example Mexico's decision to expel the North Korean ambassador in Mexico City.

He was referring to an accelerating series of missile tests by North Korea that have defied US and worldwide warnings to stop.



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