Secretary of Defense Gen. James Mattis issued a strong warning to Pyongyang Thursday.
Mattis warned that the U.S. will not tolerate North Korean aggression while meeting with Defense Minister Han Min Koo, his South Korean counterpart.
“North Korea continues to launch missiles, develop its nuclear weapons program, and engage in threatening rhetoric and behavior,” he asserted, “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 confirmed plans to deploy a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile system on South Korean soil this year, noting that the deployment would go off “without a hitch.”
The defense system is designed to protect South Korea and Japan from a North Korean missile strike, a possibility now more dangerous given North Korea’s nuclear weapons breakthroughs.
China and Russia, however, firmly oppose the THAAD program, arguing the X-band radar threatens each country’s national security.
“Were it not for the provocative behavior of North Korea, we would have no need for THAAD out here,” Mattis explained. “THAAD should be a worry to no nation other than North Korea.”
Shortly after the election of President Donald Trump, the North said it would never give up its nukes.
“Washington’s hope for North Korea’s denuclearization is an outdated illusion,” North Korea’s state-sponsored paper Rodong Sinmun reported in November.
Pyongyang has also indicated that it is almost ready to test an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of delivering a nuclear weapon to a target in the U.S.
“We have reached the final stage of preparations to test-launch an intercontinental ballistic missile,” North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un said in his New Year’s address, adding, “Research and development of cutting edge arms equipment is actively progressing.”
“Just because the U.S. is located more than ten thousand kilometers away does not make the country safe,” the Rodong Sinmun wrote last month. “Soon our ICBM will send the shiver down its spine.”
Northeast Asia will almost certainly be a critical region for Trump and his team. The region’s significance was demonstrated by Trump’s decision to send his secretary of defense there first.
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