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U.S. reaffirms defense commitment to S. Korea, warns N. Korea

New U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis on Friday reaffirmed U.S.
defense commitment to South Korea in the face of North Korea's
military threats.

"America's commitment to defend our allies and to uphold our
extended deterrence guarantees remains ironclad," Mattis said during
a press briefing held prior to talks with South Korean Defense
Minister Han Min Koo.

He also gave a warning to North Korea, saying "any attack on the
United States of America or on our allies would be defeated and any
use of nuclear weapons would be met with responses that would be
effective and overwhelming."

His use of the term "extended deterrence" refers to the U.S.'
commitment to use nuclear weapons to deter against attacks on allies.
The United States has provided "extended deterrence" or a "nuclear
umbrella" to South Korea since withdrawing nuclear warheads from the
country in the early 1990s.

Mattis also stressed the importance of working together with
Japan in security matters. "We are also committed to expanding
trilateral venues of cooperation with Japan with mutual defense of
our nations best served through teamwork," he said.

Meanwhile, Han said the defense ministerial talks between the
two allies, the first since Mattis took office as new defense chief,
implied "a resolute will of alliance" and sends "the strongest
warning" to North Korea.

Later Friday, South Korea's Defense Ministry released a
statement wrapping up the Mattis-Han talks held earlier in the day.

According to the statement, the two sides agreed to deploy an
advanced U.S. missile defense system, known as the Terminal High
Altitude Area Defense, as scheduled this year to better cope with
North Korea's nuclear and missile threats.

South Korea and the United States had initially planned to
complete the deployment of the system by the end of the year, despite
China's opposition.

Beijing has said the missile system could undermine its security
interests and the strategic balance of the region.

During a press briefing earlier in the day, Mattis stressed the
need to deploy the THAAD system in South Korea. "Due to North Korea's
threatening rhetoric and destabilizing behavior, we are also taking
defensive steps like deploying highly effective THAAD to the Republic
of Korea to protect its people and our troops that stand beside our
ally," he said.

Also included in the statement was an agreement to continue to
hold related consultations to strengthen trilateral cooperation
between the United States, Japan and South Korea in the security
sector.

The two ministers shared the view that such trilateral
cooperation on security issues has been playing a useful role in
effectively responding to North Korea's nuclear and missile threats,
it said.

At their talks, the two ministers shared an assessment on North
Korea's nuclear and missile threats and exchanged views broadly on
the internal and external situation North Korea faces and the
possibility the country may make provocations, it said.

Mattis' visit to South Korea comes at a time when North Korea
has grown increasingly provocative in its efforts to advance its
ballistic missile and nuclear weapons programs.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said earlier this year that his
country has entered the final stage of preparing to test-launch an
intercontinental ballistic missile.

Mattis, a retired four-star Marine general, left for Japan after
completing a two-day visit to South Korea.

On Thursday, Mattis met with Acting President and Prime Minister
Hwang Kyo Ahn and also Kim Kwan Jin, head of the National Security
Office at the presidential office. (Feb. 3)