The tensions between USA and North Korea escalated after Pyongyang tested an intercontinental ballistic missile in July that appears to have the range to hit major United States cities.
"The rhetoric is up to the president", Mattis said.
"My portfolio, my mission, my responsibility is to have military options should they be needed".
"The American effort is diplomatically led, it has diplomatic traction, it is gaining diplomatic results and I want to stay right there right now", Mattis said at an event in California. His comments punctuate President Donald Trump's warning that North Korea will be met with "fire and fury" if it threatens the US.
The Pentagon chief on Wednesday issued a carefully worded statement telling North Korea it would be "grossly" outmatched in any conflict with the United States, and warning Pyongyang to stop considering any action that risked "the destruction of its people".
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When Trump was asked Thursday about his statement on North Korea, he said, according to a White House pool report: "Maybe it wasn't tough enough". He said Kim Jong Un's regime should listen to and "act on that clarity".
But UN Secretary General António Guterres hinted that Trump's remarks risked derailing the diplomatic process. In fact, "If we have to, we'll go to war", Graham said. We obviously reiterate or welcome that commitment to peaceful diplomatic and political solution to the situation.
Diplomats from each country, including USA envoy to North Korea Joseph Yun and North Korean diplomat Pak Song Il are maintaining a relationship with each other in NY, fostered as well by outside groups that favor direct engagement.
Meanwhile, various media outlets have reported that North Korea now has the ability to miniaturize a nuclear warhead for placement on an intercontinental ballistic missile and the regime has threatened to "envelope Guam with fire".
Trump's remarks have prompted a reaction in China, where the state-controlled Global Times newspaper said in an editorial Friday that if North Korea launched missiles at the U.S., it should "stay neutral", sending a warning to Pyongyang that Beijing would not support the regime if it made a first move.