Mattis warns North Korea to stand down or face 'end of regime'

North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un. Recent news reports say the country has developed more sophisticated nuclear

North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un. Recent news reports say the country has developed more sophisticated nuclear

"The DPRK should cease any consideration of actions that would lead to the end of its regime and the destruction of its people", Mattis said.

Defense Secretary James Mattis on Wednesday warned North Korea that its people would be destroyed in a nuclear war with the USA - an escalation of rhetoric as other administration officials were trying to downplay the threat.

While Trump said the nuclear arsenal was more powerful than ever before, US officials say it takes decades to actually modernize nuclear weapons, a move already under way under President Barack Obama's administration, and there are treaties that regulate nuclear expansion.

Mattis' tone was at odds with that of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who earlier said he did not believe "there is any imminent threat" to Guam or other U.S. targets and hoped that diplomatic pressure would prevail in the crisis.

Mattis said in a statement that the United States and its allies would win any arms race or conflict with North Korea. However, he added the US military and its allies "now possess the most precise, rehearsed and robust defensive and offensive capabilities on Earth".

Echoing President Donald Trump's bombastic rhetoric from that morning, the Defence Secretary said that North Korea's actions "will continue to be grossly overmatched by ours", and that the country would "lose any arms race or conflict it initiates".

North Korea said on Wednesday it is "carefully examining" a plan to strike the US Pacific territory of Guam with missiles.

"They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen", he told reporters at his vacation home in New Jersey. "They will be met with fire, fury and frankly power the likes of which this world has never seen before", he said.

Mattis provided a powerful follow-up to Trump's warning that Pyongyang would face "fire and fury" should it continue to test missiles, build nuclear warheads and threaten to attack the United States.

On Tuesday, during a briefing about the opioid drug crisis, Trump warned North Korea to not make any further threats against the United States.

"My first order as President was to renovate and modernize our nuclear arsenal". It cited US intelligence officials. He warned any military actions by North Korea would be "overmatched" by USA armed forces. The aircraft flew over Japanese airspace before passing over the Korean Peninsula.

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