FORT BRAGG, N. C. – “Storm clouds gathering” on the Korean Peninsula, Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis declared Friday. And as diplomats try to resolve the nuclear standoff, he told the soldiers that the AMERICAN army should do its part by being ready for war.
Without the prediction of a conflict, Mattis stressed that diplomacy is the best chance of preventing a war as America ‘ s words are supported by strong and prepared armed forces.
“My fine young soldiers, the only way our diplomats can speak with authority and to believe it is if you’re ready to go,” Mattis said some of the dozens of soldiers and pilots in the 82nd Airborne Division’s Hall of Heroes, his last stop on a two-day pre-holiday tour of bases to greet troops.
Mattis’ comments came as the U. N. Security Council unanimously approved tough new sanctions against North Korea, compelling the nations to greatly reduce their sale of oil to the reclusive country and send home all North Korean foreign employees within two years. These employees are seen as an important source of income for the North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s cash-strapped government.
President Donald Trump and other top U.S. officials have made repeated threats about U.S. military action. Some officials have described the messages as a two-fold purpose: to pressure North Korea to enter into negotiations about the elimination of the nuclear arsenal, and motivate key regional powers China and Russia to bring more pressure on Pyongyang a war averted.
For the military, the focus is on ensuring the soldiers are ready should the call come.
In Fort Bragg, Mattis recommended the troops read T. R. Fehrenbach military classic “This Kind of War: A Study in unpreparedness,” first published in 1963, ten years after the Korean War ended.
“Know what went wrong the last time is just as important as knowing your own tests, so you are warned, if you understand what I’m driving here,” he said, as the soldiers listened in silence. “So you need to be ready.”
The retired Marine Corps general fielded questions on many topics. But North Korea kept coming up as the troops wondered if war threatens.
Asked about the recent reports that families of U.S. service members in South Korea would be evacuated, Mattis stressed his belief that diplomacy can still avert a crisis. He said: there is no plan now for an evacuation.
“I do not think that the time is not yet,” he said, adding that an evacuation of American citizens would be harmful for the South Korean economy. He said there is a contingency plan that the AMERICAN service for members of the families from “on very short notice.”
Mattis said he sees little chance of Kim disrupt the Olympics, which begin in South Korea in February.
“I don’t think Kim is stupid enough to the world by the killing of their athletes,” he said.
Still, Mattis seemed determined to steel of the AMERICAN troops against what would be a costly war on the Korean Peninsula, even as he at one point stated that diplomacy is “positive.”
“There is little reason for optimism,” he said.