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US Defense chief to discuss N. Korea threat on Asia trip

  • Written by AFP
  • Published in Nation
  • Read: 188

CLARK, Philippines, (AFP) -- US Secretary of Defense James Mattis said yesterday that curbing military
threats from North Korea would be high on the agenda on his Asian tour this week, ahead of a visit by
Donald Trump.

Tension has been high on the divided peninsula for months with Pyongyang staging its sixth
nuclear test and launching two ICBMs that apparently brought much of the US mainland into range, while
Trump and the North’s leader Kim Jong-Un trade threats of war and personal insults.
    
Mattis, on his way to the Philippines for security talks with Southeast Asian defense
ministers, said he would discuss the “regional security crisis caused by reckless... North Korea” among
other issues.
    
At the forum, Mattis is also expected to hold three-way talks with his counterparts from South
Korea and Japan -- key US allies in Asia -- before visiting Seoul for annual defense talks.
    
“We will discuss... how we are going to maintain peace by keeping our militaries alert while
our diplomats -- Japanese, South Korean and US -- work with all nations to denuclearize the Korean
peninsula,” Mattis told reporters on his aircraft.
    
He stressed the international community’s goal was to denuclearize the flashpoint region,
adding: “There is only one country with nuclear weapons on the Korean peninsula.”
    
Mattis’ visit to Seoul comes ahead of Trump’s first presidential trip to Asia next month, which
also includes South Korea. All eyes will be on Trump’s message to the isolated North.
    
His recent remark that “only one thing will work” with North Korea fuelled concerns of a
potential conflict.
    
But even some Trump advisers say US military options are limited when Pyongyang could launch an
artillery barrage on the South Korean capital Seoul -- only around 50 kilometers from the heavily-
fortified border and home to 10 million people. AFP