US Defense Secretary James Mattis issued a dramatic warning to North Korea to "cease any consideration of actions that would lead to the end of its regime and destruction of its people" -- just one day after President Trump warned that the US could unleash "fire and fury" on Pyongyang.    

 "The DPRK must choose to stop isolating itself and stand down its pursuit of nuclear weapons," Mattis said in a written statement. Mattis has consistently said that he prefers to resolve issues over North Korea's missile and nuclear programs through diplomacy -- noting military action could yield catastrophic consequences.

Meanwhile, President Trump touted US nuclear capabilities in a morning tweet, potentially escalating further the growing standoff with Pyongyang.

"My first order as President was to renovate and modernize our nuclear arsenal. It is now far stronger and more powerful than ever before," Trump wrote, in an apparent reference to a review of US nuclear weapons that began earlier this year. "Hopefully we will never have to use this power, but there will never be a time that we are not the most powerful nation in the world!"

Also earlier in the day, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson sought to allay fears of a military confrontation -- defending Trump's comments but telling reporters there was no sign that the threat level from North Korea had changed and that Americans should "sleep well at night."



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