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Pentagon chief contradicts Trump on North Korea

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
US Secretary of Defense James Mattis (2nd R) and South Korean Defense Minister Song Young-Moo (L) during a bilateral meeting at the Pentagon August 30, 2017 in Arlington, Virginia. (Getty Images)

US Defense Secretary James Mattis has said the US is "never out of diplomatic solutions" in dealing with North Korea, contradicting President Donald Trump's latest comment about abandoning diplomacy with Pyongyang.

Mattis made the remarks on Wednesday at the Pentagon before a meeting with his South Korean counterpart Song Young-Moo.

When asked by reporters if the US was out of diplomatic solutions with North Korea, Mattis replied: “No,” just hours after Trump tweeted that “talking is not the answer.”

"We're never out of diplomatic solutions," Mattis said. "We always look for more. We're never complacent."

Trump tweeted early on Wednesday that diplomacy will not resolve the growing tensions over North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs.

"The US has been talking to North Korea, and paying them extortion money, for 25 years. Talking is not the answer!" Trump posted on Twitter.

Tensions between the US and North Korea have been heightened since Pyongyang’s latest missile launch over Japan’s airspace on Monday.

The launch sparked angry reactions from South Korea, Japan and the United States, as well as calls for restraint by other countries.

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US, Japanese and South Korean warplanes carried out a show of force against North Korea on Wednesday.

Two American B-1B supersonic bombers from Andersen Air Force Base in Guam and four US F-35 stealth fighter jets from the Marine Corps Air Station in Iwakuni, Japan, joined four South Korean jets and two Japanese fighter jets for the military drills.

Last week, North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un ordered the production of more rocket warheads and engines, shortly after the United States suggested that its threats of military action and sanctions were having an impact on Pyongyang’s behavior.

Pyongyang says it will not give up on its nuclear deterrence unless Washington ends its hostile policy toward the country and dissolves the US-led UN command in South Korea. Thousands of US soldiers are stationed in South Korea and Japan.

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