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(LEAD) Mattis: Pentagon 'supports fully' diplomatic solution to N. Korea

2017/10/04 00:29

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(ATTN: UPDATES with details in paras 5-7; ADDS photo)

WASHINGTON, Oct. 3 (Yonhap) -- U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said Tuesday that the Pentagon "supports fully" a diplomatic solution to the North Korean nuclear standoff amid mixed messages from Washington.

President Donald Trump signaled over the weekend that he is not interested in negotiating with North Korea over its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs.

He said Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is "wasting his time" trying to talk to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, after the diplomat acknowledged there was direct communication between the sides.

This AP file photo shows U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. (Yonhap) This AP file photo shows U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. (Yonhap)

"The Defense Department supports fully Secretary Tillerson's efforts to find a diplomatic solution, but remains focused on defense of the United States and our allies," Mattis told a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing.

He added that Trump's guidance to both Tillerson and himself has been "very clearly" to pursue the diplomatic effort.

"I do not see the divergence as strongly as some have interpreted it," Mattis said, recalling that Tillerson had said the U.S. is "probing" for opportunities for dialogue with the North, not looking to talk immediately.

Trump demonstrated his intent to work diplomatically with other nations on the North Korea issue by dispatching Tillerson to China last week, he added.

The secretary also underscored the international community's efforts to denuclearize North Korea through sanctions, including the two unanimous U.N. Security Council resolutions since August.

hague@yna.co.kr

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