Wed, Feb 01, 2017 - Page 3 News List

US, S Korea talk defense amid North Korean ‘threat’

Reuters, WASHINGTON and SEOUL

US Secretary of Defense James Mattis and South Korean Minister of Defense Han Min-koo agreed during a telephone call on Monday to bolster their defense against “the evolving North Korean threat,” the Pentagon said, amid reports that the North might be preparing a new missile test.

Mattis, who is to visit South Korea tomorrow, reaffirmed the US’ commitment to defend the nation and “provide extended deterrence using the full range of US capabilities,” the Pentagon said in a statement.

The South Korean Ministry of Defense said in a statement that the two sides had agreed to deploy the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system in South Korea as planned to defend against North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic capabilities.

China has objected to THAAD, saying it would destabilize the regional security balance, leading to calls from some South Korean opposition leaders to delay or cancel it.

Mattis’ visit to the region comes amid reports that the North might be readying to test a new ballistic missile in what could be an early challenge for US President Donald Trump’s administration.

The North also appears to have restarted operations of a reactor at its main Yongbyon nuclear facility that produces plutonium that can be used for its nuclear weapons program, according to a US think tank.

North Korea has carried out a series of nuclear and missile tests in defiance of UN sanctions, including one in September last year.

Mattis also met Jordanian King Abdullah at the Pentagon and expressed his deep appreciation for Jordan’s contributions to the fight against the Islamic State group, the Pentagon statement said.

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