Defense Secretary James Mattis pushed back Thursday on White House chief strategist Steve Bannon’s assessment about dealing with North Korea’s nuclear threat, saying during a press conference that there will be a “strong military consequence” if Pyongyang takes up military action against the U.S. or its allies.
Bannon, who gave a controversial interview with liberal magazine The American Prospect, said "there's no military solution [to North Korea's nuclear threats], forget it."
“I just can assure you that, in close collaboration with our allies, there are strong military consequences if the DPRK initiates hostilities,” Mattis said at a joint press conference with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and their Japanese counterparts.
Tillerson confirmed he read Bannon’s interview but declined to comment on it.
Bannon pointed to the threat South Korea faced as reason to deter any strike.
“Until somebody solves the part of the equation that shows me that ten million people in Seoul don’t die in the first 30 minutes from conventional weapons, I don’t know what you’re talking about, there’s no military solution here, they got us,” said the chief strategist.
North Korea, he added, was “just a side show.” The U.S.’s real focus should be on China, Pyongyang’s major trading partner, and a country we are already “at economic war with.”
“To me,” Bannon said, “the economic war with China is everything. And we have to be maniacally focused on that. If we continue to lose it, we're five years away, I think, ten years at the most, of hitting an inflection point from which we'll never be able to recover.”