BY MAX GREENWOOD, THE HILL ~~
WASHINGTON, DEC 15, 2017 — Defense Secretary James Mattis said Friday that North Korea’s newest intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) is not a “capable threat” to the United States.
“It has not yet shown to be a capable threat against us right now,” Mattis said at the Pentagon, according to Reuters.
He added though that officials were continuing to analyze the situation.
“We’re still doing the forensics analysis,” he said.
Mattis’s comments came weeks after North Korea tested what it said was a new kind of ICBM capable of reaching the entire U.S. mainland. He said at the time that the missile flew higher than any previous test by the reclusive country.
Mattis did detail what led officials to conclude the missile does not yet pose an immediate threat to the U.S., according to Reuters.
South Korean defense officials have said that North Korea’s newest missile appears capable of reaching Washington, though it remains unclear if the rocket is capable of reliably delivering a Defense Secretary James Mattis nuclear warhead.
Pyongyang has stepped up its weapons tests in recent months, appearing to make strides in its nuclear and missile programs. In September, North Korea tested what it said was a hydrogen bomb.
President Trump has repeatedly said that he could resort to military action against North Korea if necessary, and has warned he will unleash “fire and fury” on the country if it continues to threaten the U.S. and its allies.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson this week said that the U.S. was open to talks with North Korea “without precondition.” The White House later said that its position on North Korea had not changed.
Tillerson reversed course on Friday, saying at a United Nations Security Council meeting that Pyongyang would have to “earn its way back” to the negotiating table with the U.S.