Mattis’ visit to Asia signals new administration’s concern over North Korea
SEOUL, South Korea — President Donald Trump hasn’t said much about North Korea since his inauguration. But his new defense secretary is making South Korea and Japan his first stops overseas in his new role, signaling strong concern over Pyongyang’s growing nuclear-weapons threat.
Jim Mattis’ debut trip abroad as Pentagon chief comes amid strong fears that North Korea may be preparing for another missile test, following a declaration by the country’s leader that it is in the “final stages” of developing an intercontinental ballistic missile.
In a phone call Tuesday, Mattis and his South Korean counterpart, Han Min-koo, agreed to strengthen the countries’ longstanding alliance “to defend against the evolving North Korean threat,” the Pentagon said.
The retired Marine general also vowed that “the U.S. will stand shoulder to shoulder” with the South Korean forces, it added.
South Korea’s defense ministry said they also agreed to deploy an advanced U.S. anti-missile battery on the peninsula as scheduled despite Chinese objections, and to maintain readiness in case of aggression by the North.
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