North Korea risks 'destruction of its people', says defence secretary Mattis

U.S. Defence Minister James N. Mattis is seen during a press conference before the commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the Marshall Plan at the George C. Marshall Center in Garmisch-Partenkirchen Germany

"The DPRK must choose to stop isolating itself and stand down its pursuit of nuclear weapons", he said.

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

The U.S. defense chief also warned that the DPRK's actions "will continue to be grossly overmatched by ours and would lose any arms race or conflict it initiates".

But North Korea's Foreign Minister insisted the rogue state will never abandon its nuclear ambition as long as the U.S. remains "hostile".

Trump was "sending a strong message to North Korea in language that (North Korean leader) Kim Jong Un would understand", Tillerson said.

Washington has been testing its missile defences in response to the North's stepped-up development and the current escalation of tensions could lead to pressure for the US military to try to shoot down the North's missiles in midflight if they are heading toward Guam. President Trump has made revamping USA missile defense systems a top objective for the Pentagon since taking office.

Hours after Trump spoke, and apparently in response to military exercises by the USA earlier in the week, Pyongyang warned that it would carry out pre-emptive military strikes against the USA, including the Pacific territory of Guam.

Guam is roughly the size of Chicago and has a population of 162,000
Image North Korea threatened the tiny Pacific island of Guam home to US bases

The U.N. Security Council on Saturday voted 15-0 to impose new sanctions on North Korea that U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley called "a gut punch" to Pyongyang.

The Washington Post reported Tuesday that the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency has concluded that North Korea has also successfully miniaturized a nuclear warhead to fit atop the Hwasong 14. "They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen", Trump said.

Tillerson's priority has been persuading China to put more pressure on North Korea to give up its nuclear program, including by implementing existing United Nations sanctions, and encouraging other countries to stop trading with Pyongyang.

North Korea on Thursday announced a detailed plan to launch a volley of ballistic missiles toward the U.S. Pacific territory of Guam, a major military hub and home to U.S. bombers, and dismissed President Donald Trump's threats of "fire and fury" if it doesn't back down.

Tillerson has also opened the door to talks with Pyongyang, saying this week that the United States could be willing to negotiate if North Korea halted a series of recent missile test launches.

Earlier US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson arrived in Guam on a scheduled visit and told reporters he did not believe there was an imminent threat and "Americans should sleep well at night".

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