U.S. defence chief criticises N Korea on first foreign trip

Experts say it is likely laying low until Trump's policies become clear and in order to avoid stoking security concerns while the drama over Park's impeachment plays out.

On the flight to South Korea, the retired Marine Corps general described the alliances between the two countries as "enduring".

"I think there is hope in [South] Korea and Japan that Mattis and [Secretary of State Rex] Tillerson will become a center of gravity for US foreign policy decision making in Asia at least", James Schoff, senior fellow in the Carnegie Asia Program, told Foreign Policy.

Right now we have to address the reality of the threat that your country and my country faces and we intend to be shoulder-to-shoulder with you as we face this together. "Were it not for the provocative behavior of North Korea, we would have no need for THAAD out here", Mattis said.

Mattis' trip was seen by many as a signal that the Trump administration's foreign policy would focus on Asia.

U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis walks into the government complex in central Seoul on Thursday on his way to meet with Hwang Kyo-ahn, the acting president.

"It was a smart decision" to visit these allies early, Hagel said.

Today, Mattis is scheduled to have a brief discussion with Foreign Affairs Minister Yun Byung-se, followed by a defense ministerial meeting with Han and a wreath-laying ceremony at Seoul National Cemetery.

In addition to its nuclear threat, which includes bombs and a growing capacity to deliver them, the rogue state already has large numbers of conventional forces and artillery within striking distance of the 20-plus million people who live in and around Seoul.

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Dunford Jr., chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the chiefs of all the military branches in a Pentagon conference room. A senior administration official told reporters that Trump might sign the order as early as Saturday.

This project could further aggravate the escalation of tension is recorded between Beijing, on one hand, and Washington and Seoul on the other.

How the Trump administration will approach that prospect remains unclear.

The South's Presidential Office said Mattis and Kim agreed on the importance of maintaining and strengthening the ROK-U.S. alliance under the new administration and agreed to "strongly respond" to North Korean provocations, as well as to maintain peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula.

Mattis arrived at Osan Air Base in South Korea at 1230 KST (0330 GMT) on Thursday, Kim Young-kyu, a press aide from USFK told NK News.

But not everyone welcomed the visit, which comes as South Korea is paralyzed politically.

North Korea is expected to be at or near the top of Mattis' agenda. Mattis also underscored that the United States remains steadfast in its commitment to defend South Korea and that the US extended deterrence commitment remains ironclad, he said.

Both countries are nervous about Trump's plans because the billionaire businessman said during the campaign that they should pay more for their own defenses.

It will be Mattis' role, some have speculated, to ease worries about those statements. "America is here to stay, contrary to what candidate Trump said during the presidential election past year". The president has also pulled out of a major trade deal with Asian allies.

The two countries say the deployment is created to protect against North Korea's growing nuclear and ballistic capabilities, which have been advancing despite years of efforts by the global community.

  • Megan Austin