In his first trip abroad as Secretary of Defense, James Mattis told South Korean defense and military officials Friday the U.S. would respond to any North Korean use of nuclear weapons against America or its allies with a full nuclear retaliatory strike against Pyongyang.
“Any attack on the United States, or our allies, will be defeated, and any use of nuclear weapons would be met with a response that would be effective and overwhelming,” Mattis told an audience at the South Korean Defense Ministry.
One day prior, when describing North Korea’s behavior as “provocative,” Secretary Mattis defended the planned deployment of the THAAD missile-defense system in South Korea, saying only Pyongyang had to fear its stationing in the South.
On a two-day tour of South Korea to soothe eight years of unease and anxiety among regional allies, Mattis arrived at a moment of relative tranquility in contrast to 2016 when North Korea conducted over 20 missile tests, including two nuclear tests.
Despite assurances to America’s regional allies, Mattis’ trip and his pledge to place the THAAD missile system in South Korea later this year come at the objections of both China and Russia. Beijing says the deployment of the anti-ballistic missile system poses a threat to China and has no affect on Pyongyang.
Beijing’s protestations aside, and concerns expressed by South Korean politicians, Seoul is determined to position the THAAD system in the South.
Speaking of the deployment of the THAAD system in the near future and Mattis’ visit to South Korea, South Korean Defense Minister Han Min-koo said:
“Faced with a current severe security situation, Secretary Mattis’ visit to Korea . . . also communicates the strongest warning to North Korea.”
Mattis’ trip includes a stop in Japan before returning to Washington.
[Reuters] [Photo courtesy EPA via The Telegraph]