The Latest: Mattis sticks with current US nuclear framework

MINOT AIR FORCE BASE, N.D. (AP) - The Latest on Defense Secretary Jim Mattis' visit to Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota (all times local):

9:45 a.m.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis says he's become convinced that the U.S. must keep all three parts of its nuclear force - rather than eliminate one of them, as he once suggested.

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.

2:55 a.m.

As North Korea flaunts its new nuclear muscle, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis is spotlighting the overwhelming numerical superiority of America's doomsday arsenal.

On Wednesday, he is dropping in on ground zero of American nuclear firepower: Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota, home to more than 100 land-based nuclear missiles as well as nuclear bomb-toting aircraft. He also will receive briefings at Strategic Command, whose top officer would command nuclear forces in war.

The visits were scheduled before a recent series of North Korean nuclear and missile tests. They give Mattis a chance to highlight what the Air Force touts as an always-ready fleet of land-based missiles and B-52 bombers equipped to deliver nuclear devastation to nearly any point on the globe in short order.

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