The U.S. has vowed to resist any attack on its homeland or on its allies and pledged to meet any use of nuclear weapons with an effective and overwhelming response, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said on Friday in Seoul.
Mattis, on his first official visit as defense secretary to South Korea and Japan, spoke in advance of a meeting with South Korean Defense Minister Han Min-koo, according to the Department of Defense.
In Seoul, the two leaders stood on a stage at separate podiums against a backdrop of U.S. and South Korean national flags. Mattis’s remarks were translated consecutively.
“North Korea continues to launch missiles, develop a nuclear weapons programme and engage in threatening rhetoric and behaviour.
“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 iron clad,” he said.
He said North Korea’s threatening rhetoric and destabilising behaviour has prompted the U.S and Korea to deploy terminal high-altitude area defense anti-ballistic missile systems.
Mattis called the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) anti-ballistic missile systems “highly effective” to South Korea to protect its people and the 28,500 U.S. troops there who stand beside the U.S. allies.
According to the Missile Defense Agency’s website, THAAD is an element of the Ballistic Missile Defense System that can intercept and destroy ballistic missiles inside or outside earth’s atmosphere during the final, or terminal, phase of flight.
Mattis said the U.S. and South Korea are also committed to expanding trilateral venues of cooperation with Japan.
“The mutual defense of our nations is best served through teamwork. Our militaries are always ready to protect this republic.”
Mattis said he met with South Korea’s acting President and Prime Minister, Hwang Kyo-ahn, National Security Adviser Kim Kwan-jin and Minister of Foreign Affairs Yun Byung-se.
“From those meetings,” the defense secretary said, I gained a deeper sense of the trusted bonds between our countries built on shared interests and values.
“The United States stands by its commitments and with its allies.
“Our alliance is a testament to mutual commitment and respect and it is a linchpin of peace and stability in the Asia Pacific region,” Mattis said.
He added that the trip underscored the U.S. commitment to its enduring alliances with the two nations and strengthens cooperation among all three.