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Defense Secretary Jim Mattis speaks with reporters at the Pentagon on Friday, May 19, 2017.
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis speaks with reporters at the Pentagon on Friday, May 19, 2017. (Corey Dickstein/Stars and Stripes)

WASHINGTON — Defense Secretary Jim Mattis warned North Korea on Wednesday against taking actions that would force the United States to use its military power to destroy them after its regime threatened to attack the U.S. territory of Guam.

North Korea “should cease any consideration of actions that would lead to the end of its regime and the destruction of its people,” Mattis said in a sharply worded response released Wednesday afternoon by the Pentagon.

North Korea said Wednesday morning that it was considering plans to strike Guam with ballistic missiles. The threat to Guam, where Andersen Air Force Base is a key to U.S. operations in the Pacific Ocean, followed President Donald Trump’s televised warning Tuesday that future North Korean provocations would “be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen.”

In Mattis’ statement, he urged North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons program and stop isolating itself from the rest of the world. He warned any military actions by North Korea would be “overmatched” by U.S. armed forces.

“The United States and our allies have the demonstrated capabilities and unquestionable commitment to defend ourselves from an attack,” the statement said. “…The [North Korean] regime’s actions will continue to be grossly overmatched by ours and would lose any arms race or conflict it initiates.”

The statement represents a marked uptick in rhetoric from the Pentagon, where senior officials along with Mattis, have long stressed a diplomatic solution to North Korea’s provocative actions that have included nuclear and ballistic missile tests.

Mattis said the State Department would continue to try to solve the problem without violence. However, he added the U.S. military and its allies “now possess the most precise, rehearsed and robust defensive and offensive capabilities on Earth.”

Despite the new warnings from Mattis, the United States had made no changes to its military posture in South Korea or the Pacific as of Wednesday, said Army Col. Rob Manning, a Pentagon spokesman.

dickstein.corey@stripes.com Twitter: @CDicksteinDC

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