U.S. Defence Secretary Jim Mattis on Friday, in an explicit warning to North Korea, said any use of nuclear weapons by the North on the United States or its allies would be met with what he called an ‘effective and overwhelming’ response.
He made the remarks during an appearance with his South Korean counterpart, Defence Minister Han Min Koo as he visited South Korea.
“North Korea continues to launch missiles, develop its nuclear weapons program, and engage in threatening rhetoric and behaviour,” Mattis said with Han standing at his side and U.S. and South Korean flags at their backs.
“We stand with our peace-loving Republic of Korea ally to maintain stability on the peninsula and in the region.
“America’s commitments to defending our allies and to upholding our extended deterrence guarantees remain ironclad: 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’s statement showed by he chose South Korea for his first visit overseas since becoming defence secretary Jan. 20. He sought to reassure South Koreans of the longstanding U.S. commitment to a defence treaty that President Donald Trump suggested during the campaign was a bad deal for America.
Mattis also was discussing with the South Koreans a timetable for deploying an advanced U.S. missile defence system, the Theatre High-Altitude Area Defence (THAAAD), that is meant to improve protection of South Korea and Japan — as well as U.S. troops stationed in both countries — against a North Korean missile attack.
In his remarks, Han echoed Mattis’s concern about North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs saying they (North) have ‘blatantly threatened’ the international community and have created a ‘severe security situation’ on the Korean peninsula.
He described Mattis’s visit so early in his tenure as a warning to North Korea that has repeatedly said it was nearly ready to test-launch a ballistic missile of intercontinental range, meaning it could theoretically threat the United States.
“Were it not for the provocative behaviour of North Korea, we would have no need for Thaad out here,” Mattis said in his breif remarks to reporters.