Mattis hints at secret 'kinetic' military options for North Korea


Defense Secretary Jim Mattis hinted that the United States still had military options left for dealing with North Korea, but did not elaborate when asked for details Monday.

Most experts believe that a military strike on North Korea would invite a devastating response from Pyongyang. The city of Seoul, South Korea, home to 25 million, is well within artillery range of the North, which would likely use conventional artillery munitions and chemical weapons.

But, according to Mattis, the Pentagon has a few tricks up its sleeve that wouldn't involve the decimation of Seoul.

When asked, "is there any military option the U.S. can take with North Korea that would not put Seoul at grave risk?" on Monday, Mattis responded, "Yes, there are, but I will not go into details."

Previously, Mattis said a war with North Korea would "involve the massive shelling of an ally's capital, which is one of the most densely packed cities on earth," in reference to Seoul.

It's difficult to understand what the Pentagon could do to stop a North Korean nuclear program, or take out its leader Kim Jong-un, while preventing Pyongyang from fighting back. Artillery, rockets, missiles, and other munitions are scattered throughout the North — many in secret locations — and the Kim regime maintains an ironclad hold on power.

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North Korea releases photo that appears to show new missile plan
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North Korea releases photo that appears to show new missile plan
North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un gives field guidance during a visit to the Chemical Material Institute of the Academy of Defense Science in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang on August 23, 2017. KCNA/via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS PICTURE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. REUTERS IS UNABLE TO INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THE AUTHENTICITY, CONTENT, LOCATION OR DATE OF THIS IMAGE. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. NO THIRD PARTY SALES. NOT FOR USE BY REUTERS THIRD PARTY DISTRIBUTORS. SOUTH KOREA OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN SOUTH KOREA. THIS PICTURE IS DISTRIBUTED EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS.
North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un gives field guidance during a visit to the Chemical Material Institute of the Academy of Defense Science in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang on August 23, 2017. KCNA/via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS PICTURE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. REUTERS IS UNABLE TO INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THE AUTHENTICITY, CONTENT, LOCATION OR DATE OF THIS IMAGE. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. NO THIRD PARTY SALES. NOT FOR USE BY REUTERS THIRD PARTY DISTRIBUTORS. SOUTH KOREA OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN SOUTH KOREA. THIS PICTURE IS DISTRIBUTED EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS.
North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un looks on during a visit to the Chemical Material Institute of the Academy of Defense Science in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang on August 23, 2017. KCNA/via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS PICTURE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. REUTERS IS UNABLE TO INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THE AUTHENTICITY, CONTENT, LOCATION OR DATE OF THIS IMAGE. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. NO THIRD PARTY SALES. NOT FOR USE BY REUTERS THIRD PARTY DISTRIBUTORS. SOUTH KOREA OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN SOUTH KOREA. THIS PICTURE IS DISTRIBUTED EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS.
North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un looks on during a visit to the Chemical Material Institute of the Academy of Defense Science in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang on August 23, 2017. KCNA/via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS PICTURE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. REUTERS IS UNABLE TO INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THE AUTHENTICITY, CONTENT, LOCATION OR DATE OF THIS IMAGE. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. NO THIRD PARTY SALES. NOT FOR USE BY REUTERS THIRD PARTY DISTRIBUTORS. SOUTH KOREA OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN SOUTH KOREA. THIS PICTURE IS DISTRIBUTED EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS.
North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un gives field guidance during a visit to the Chemical Material Institute of the Academy of Defense Science in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang on August 23, 2017. KCNA/via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS PICTURE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. REUTERS IS UNABLE TO INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THE AUTHENTICITY, CONTENT, LOCATION OR DATE OF THIS IMAGE. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. NO THIRD PARTY SALES. NOT FOR USE BY REUTERS THIRD PARTY DISTRIBUTORS. SOUTH KOREA OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN SOUTH KOREA. THIS PICTURE IS DISTRIBUTED EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS.
North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un looks on during a visit to the Chemical Material Institute of the Academy of Defense Science in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang on August 23, 2017. KCNA/via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS PICTURE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. REUTERS IS UNABLE TO INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THE AUTHENTICITY, CONTENT, LOCATION OR DATE OF THIS IMAGE. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. NO THIRD PARTY SALES. NOT FOR USE BY REUTERS THIRD PARTY DISTRIBUTORS. SOUTH KOREA OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN SOUTH KOREA. THIS PICTURE IS DISTRIBUTED EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS.
North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un looks on during a visit to the Chemical Material Institute of the Academy of Defense Science in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang on August 23, 2017. KCNA/via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS PICTURE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. REUTERS IS UNABLE TO INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THE AUTHENTICITY, CONTENT, LOCATION OR DATE OF THIS IMAGE. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. NO THIRD PARTY SALES. NOT FOR USE BY REUTERS THIRD PARTY DISTRIBUTORS. SOUTH KOREA OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN SOUTH KOREA. THIS PICTURE IS DISTRIBUTED EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS.
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And with every known military option — from launching Tomahawk cruise missiles to air strikes — its likely that North Korea would interpret any strike, however limited, "as a prelude to invading or overthrowing the government, even if the United States insists otherwise," Daryl Press, a scholar of nuclear deterrence at Dartmouth College, told The Atlantic.

So what does Mattis have in mind? He wouldn't say, but he did let slip one interesting comment.

"Just to clarify, you said that there were possible military options that would not create a grave risk to Seoul. Are we talking kinetic options as well?" a reporter asked in a follow-up.

"Yes, I don't want to go into that," Mattis said, agreeing that his closely-held military option involved kinetic action, a euphemism to describe lethal military force.

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Defense Secretary Mattis visits Ukraine
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Defense Secretary Mattis visits Ukraine
U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis and Ukraine's Defence Minister Stepan Poltorak walk past honour guards during a welcoming ceremony in Kiev, Ukraine August 24, 2017. REUTERS/Gleb Garanich
U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis and Ukraine's Defence Minister Stepan Poltorak attend a welcoming ceremony in Kiev, Ukraine August 24, 2017. REUTERS/Gleb Garanich
U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis (R) and Ukraine's Defence Minister Stepan Poltorak attend a welcoming ceremony in Kiev, Ukraine August 24, 2017. REUTERS/Gleb Garanich
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko (R) and U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis attend a meeting with journalists in Kiev, Ukraine August 24, 2017. Mikhail Palinchak/Ukrainian Presidential Press Service/Pool via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko (R) speaks with U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis during a meeting in Kiev, Ukraine August 24, 2017. Mikhail Palinchak/Ukrainian Presidential Press Service/Pool via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY.
U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis (L) speaks with Ukraine's Defence Minister Stepan Poltorak before a military parade marking Ukraine's Independence Day in Kiev, Ukraine August 24, 2017. REUTERS/Gleb Garanich
U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko attend a military parade marking Ukraine's Independence Day in Kiev, Ukraine August 24, 2017. REUTERS/Gleb Garanich
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko (R) meets with U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis in Kiev, Ukraine August 24, 2017. Mykola Lazarenko/Ukrainian Presidential Press Service/Pool via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY.
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President Donald Trump threatened to "totally destroy North Korea" in a speech to the United Nations On Tuesday.

"It is an outrage that some nations would not only trade with such a regime, but arm, supply, and financially support a country that imperils the world with nuclear conflict," Trump said, adding that if Pyongyang didn't back down, the US would "have no choice than to totally destroy North Korea."

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