Defense Secretary James Mattis said on Friday that the best way for the U.S. to avoid war is if the country’s troops are “ready to go.”
Speaking to soldiers at the 82nd Airborne Division’s Hall of Heroes in North Carolina, Mattis said that U.S. diplomats rely on the military’s readiness in order to be able to “speak with authority” in negotiations.
“My fine young soldiers, the only way our diplomats can speak with authority and be believed is if you’re ready to go,” Mattis said, according to The Associated Press.
In his remarks, Mattis warned that “storm clouds are gathering” over the Korean Peninsula, according to the AP. He said that the military must be ready to take action in order to give weight to U.S. diplomats’ efforts to curb North Korea’s nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs.
President Trump has repeatedly warned that the U.S. could take military action against North Korea if the isolated Asian nation continues to threaten the U.S. and its allies with nuclear strikes.
But the administration has also sought to pressure China, Pyongyang’s only major ally and largest trading partner, to do more to rein in North Korea. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has pushed for a diplomatic solution to the standoff.
Mattis’s remarks on Friday came as the United Nations Security Council voted unanimously to impose tougher sanctions on North Korea in the latest effort to force Pyongyang to the negotiating table. Those sanctions seek to reduce North Korea’s refined petroleum imports by 90 percent.
The Defense chief has urged readiness for a potential conflict with North Korea in the past. In October, he called on the U.S. Army “to be ready” for possible military action against North Korea.