Defense Secretary James Mattis appeared on “Face the Nation” with John Dickerson on Sunday and repeated his warning that an armed conflict with North Korea would be “catastrophic” for US allies in the region, and that it "would be probably the worst kind of fighting" because of the North's proximity to the South Korean capital, Seoul.
Mattis told a Pentagon news conference earlier this month that a war with the north would be “tragic on an unbelievable scale," suggesting that the Trump administration would seek to exhaust all alternatives before resorting to military action.
Mattis affirms that the North is a threat to the US, but he stops short of drawing a line in the sand when he tells Dickerson he’d prefer not to answer a question about what the North could do, if anything, to provoke a response from the US. The president, Mattis said, needs “political maneuver room on the issue.”
During the US-China summit at Mar-a-Lago estate, Florida, in early April, Chinese President Xi Jinping asked US President Donald Trump for a 100-day grace period to deal with North Korea’s military provocations. The May 21 launch cast doubts on the efficacy of the measures taken. The 100-day period would end around the time the G20 summit is held in Germany on July 7-8 with the problem of North Korea high on the agenda. The US and China’s leaders will tackle the burning issue on the sidelines of the event.
Finally, it has been recently revealed that the US military has moved two nuclear submarines towards North Korea. President Trump was likely referring to an Ohio-class guided missile submarine (SSGN), the USS Michigan, which made an official port call in Busan, South Korea on April 25, and the Los-Angeles-class attack submarine (SSN) USS Cheyenne, which visited Sasebo, Japan on May 2 as part of its regional deployment. The US Navy on average is deploying up to ten Los-Angeles, Seawolf, or Virginia-class attack submarines worldwide on any given day.
Michigan is used for first strike missions. It is one of four Ohio strategic subs (SSBNs) converted to only fire conventional Tomahawks instead of nuclear ballistic missiles. The boat carries a massive load of 154 land attack cruise missiles. On top of that, Michigan carries the Dry Deck Shelter, which allows it to deploy special operations forces and their swimmer delivery vehicle mini-subs. Cheyenne is a Los Angeles-class attack submarine, which routinely accompanies carrier groups. It can fire Tomahawks.