That force consists of land-based missiles — known as intercontinental ballistic missiles — as well as missiles launched from submarines and from planes. Before Mattis became President Donald Trump's Pentagon chief in January, he'd suggested ICBMs might be expendable.
But he says his view has changed. Mattis says the key to avoiding nuclear war is maintaining a nuclear arsenal sufficient to convince a potential enemy that attacking the United States with a nuclear weapon would be suicidal. He says he's has been persuaded that the current framework "is the right way to go."
Mattis spoke to reporters as he flew to a nuclear base in North Dakota.
North Korea has been flexing its nuclear muscle — and in response, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis is spotlighting the overwhelming numerical superiority of America's doomsday arsenal.
Mattis is making a visit to ground zero of American nuclear firepower: Minot (MY'-naht) Air Force base in North Dakota. It's home to more than 100 land-based nuclear missiles as well as planes that can carry nuclear bombs.
At Minot, he'll also get briefings at Strategic Command. That command's top officer would command nuclear forces in a war.
Mattis' trip Wednesday was already on his schedule even before the recent series of North Korean nuclear and missile tests.