- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 13, 2017

Defense Secretary James Mattis remained mum on potential military options being weighed by the Trump White House, should North Korea carry out a new round of nuclear weapons tests.

Regional analysts anticipate Pyongyang is poised to carry out a new round of tests, which are banned by international sanctions, in commemoration of the 105th birthday of North Korean founding father Kim Il-sung, set for Saturday.

The U.S.S. Carl Vinson strike group was re-routed from naval exercises off the Australian coast to the international waters in the western Pacific Ocean earlier this week.

Washington is “working with international partners in order to defuse the situation” in North Korea, Mr. Mattis told reporters Thursday, when asked about potential military responses.

“But the bottom line is North Korea has got to change its behavior, that is an agreed position among the international community nations that are working together on this,” he said before a meeting with Turkish Defense Minister Fikri Isik at the Pentagon.

Mr. Mattis attempted to tamp down tensions between Washington and Pyongyang Tuesday, saying the deployment of the Carl Vinson was part of routine naval operations, and not a de facto show of force aimed at the North Korean regime.

The strike group is “stationed there in the western Pacific for a reason. She operates freely up and down the Pacific, and she’s just on her way up there because that’s where we thought it was most prudent to have her at this time,” Mr. Mattis said, alongside U.S. Central Command chief Gen. Joseph Votel during his first official Pentagon press conference.

National Security Adviser Gen. H.R. McMaster said President Trump has requested “a full range of options to remove the [nuclear] threat to the American people and to our allies,” posed by North Korea.

Pyongyang has graduated from “a rogue regime that is now a nuclear capable regime,” Gen McMaster told Fox News on Sunday.

Mr. Mattis chalked up the recent publicity generated by the strike group’s movements to the department’s bureaucracy. The Carl Vinson “was originally headed in one direction for an exercise, and we canceled our role in that exercise, and that’s what became public,” he said, referring to the joint naval exercise near Australia.

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