North Korea poses the most urgent threat to international peace and security as its continued pursuit of nuclear weapons and the means to deliver them has increased in pace and scope, US Defence Secretary James Mattis has said. “The regime’s nuclear weapons programme is a clear and present danger to all, and the regime’s provocative actions, manifestly illegal under international law, have not abated despite United Nations’ censure and sanctions,” he said. “The most urgent and dangerous threat to peace and security is North Korea. North Korea’s continued pursuit of nuclear weapons and the means to deliver them has increased in pace and scope,”
Mattis told members of the House Armed Services Committee during a Congressional hearing. Noting that the global security situation in worsening, he said America’s challenge is characterised by a decline in the long-standing rules-based international order. Mattis said a return to ‘Great Power’ competition, marked by a resurgent and more aggressive Russian Federation and a rising, more confident and assertive China places the international order under assault.
“Both Russia and China object to key aspects of the international order so painstakingly built since the end of World War II. Both countries are making their objections known by challenging established international norms, such as freedom of the seas and the sovereignty of nations on their periphery,” he said. Moreover, the breakdown of the broader Mideast order has given rise to terrorist groups, including Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), he said. Security vacuums have allowed a revolutionary Iranian regime to sow violence, provoke wider Sunni-Shia confrontation, and pursue regional hegemony, he added.
“More broadly, this need to preserve our security also requires us to sustain the international presence in Afghanistan to help stabilise the South Asia region and deny terrorists a safe haven,” he said. Observing that instability in the Middle East spills over into other regions, Mattis said extremists and extremist ideologies have spread to Europe, Africa and Asia.
“Numerous countries are dealing with forced migration of people seeking to escape violence and despair, reminding us that problems originating in ungoverned or combat torn areas don’t remain there,” he said. For decades, the US enjoyed uncontested or dominant superiority in every operating domain or realm. “We could generally deploy our forces when we wanted, assemble them where we wanted, and operate how we wanted. Today, every operating domain is contested,” he said.
Outer space, long considered a sanctuary, is now contested, he said adding that this creates the need to develop capabilities and capacities for more resilient satellites designed to withstand persistent kinetic and non- kinetic attack. America’s dominance of the air is challenged by the proliferation of advanced integrated air defence networks and 5th-generation aircraft. Further, America’s command of the seas is threatened by long-range, land-based guided munitions battle networks designed to attack ships at increasingly longer ranges.