Amid North Korean Tensions, Mattis-Tillerson Show Is Key to the Drama


BANGOR, Wash.—Defense Secretary Jim Mattis was wrapping up a talk a few days ago to sailors of the submarine Kentucky, which carries two dozen nuclear-tipped intercontinental ballistic missiles, when he sent them off with this sober message: “If we’ve got to turn something off in a hurry,” he said, “we’re counting on you to turn it off in a hurry.”

Mr. Mattis didn’t specifically mention North Korea and its nuclear program, but nobody on the pier here in Washington state, facing the Pacific Ocean, was in doubt. After all,…