FILE – In this April 11, 2017 file photo, Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis pauses during a news conference at the Pentagon. Mattis is looking to the Middle East and North Africa for a broader contributions and new ideas to fight Islamic extremism as the Trump administration’s counter-terrorism strategy. His trip to the region this week, also stops with many years of allies, Israel and Saudi Arabia, and new partners, such as Djibouti. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File)
The US Secretary of Defense James Mattis jokes with reporters as he sits down to brief them in their cabin on board his plane on the way to the Middle East after the departure of Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, Monday, 17 April 2017. (Jonathan Ernst/Pool photo via AP)
The US Secretary of Defense James Mattis comes to the start of a week-long Middle East visit with King Salman Air Base, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Tuesday, 18 April 2017. (Jonathan Ernst/Pool phto via AP)
RIYADH, Saudi Arabia – Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis says North Korea’s recent failed rocket launch was a reckless act of provocation.
Mattis said at the weekend that the missile launch in an interview with reporters traveling with him Tuesday to Saudi Arabia, where he begins a weeklong middle east tour. His language is stronger than in the first written statement he issued shortly after the launch, to which he simply said that he was aware of the failure.
“The leader of North Korea again recklessly trying to provoke something by the launch of a rocket,” he said.
Mattis did not identify the type of missile, but said it was not of intercontinental range, which means that it could not reach AMERICAN territory. He did not comment on what might have been the cause of the rocket failure.
Mattis credited China with the trying to help the North Korea situation “under control” with the aim of denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula.
Asked about his visit to Saudi Arabia, Mattis said the desert kingdom is a “pillar of our security framework for the region.”
The AMERICAN military support for the Saudi-led coalition fight against the government, Houthi rebels, but Mattis said the U.S. focus is on the organization of a United Nations-brokered negotiating team to resolve the Yemen civil war diplomatically.
“This is something, with the number of innocent people die in Yemen, that simply has to be brought to an end,” he said.
The U.S. security alliance with Saudi Arabia, which dates from 1944 and is largely based on the saudis’ oil wealth, Washington has the kingdom’s main arms supplier.