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U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said there has been no change in the United States policy protecting South Korea, in the face of missile and nuclear threats from North Korea.
Speaking to U.S. and South Korean troops Friday at the Panmunjom “truce village” where South meets North, Mattis said “We’re doing everything we can to solve this diplomatically – everything we can,” referring to North Korea’s nuclear weapons program.
“Ultimately, our diplomats have to be backed up by strong soldiers and sailors, airmen and Marines,” Mattis said, “so they speak from a position of strength, of combined strength, of alliance strength, shoulder to shoulder.”
Mattis quoted Secretary of State Rex Tillerson as saying, “Our goal is not war,” adding that the aim is to compel the North to completely and irreversibly eliminate a nuclear weapons program that has accelerated since President Donald Trump took office.
Mattis visited a US-South Korean military observation post to look over into North Korea, and got a briefing on conditions along the border.
He also went to Demilitarized Zone, as tourists on the North Korean side observed his visit to the consistently tense area.
On a two-day visit to South Korea, Mattis met with the country’s President, Moon Jae-in, Friday and with the top defense officials and American military commanders directly involved in countering North Korea’s actions.
During the meeting, Moon praised the “aggressive deployment” of U.S. strategic assets on the Korean peninsula for being effective in deterring North’s provocations.
On Saturday, General Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, will join Mattis in annual consultations with South Korean defense officials.