On Friday during his trip to South Korea, Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis warned North Korea that any use of nuclear weapons would result in an “effective and overwhelming” response from the United States. During his first foreign trip as Defense Secretary, Mattis ensured America’s allies in Asia that the U.S. would keep their long standing commitment to protect them against any aggressors with their nuclear “umbrella.”
While appearing alongside his South Korean counterpart Defense Minister Han Min Koo, Secretary Mattis slammed North Korea for their threatening behavior.
“North Korea continues to launch missiles, develop its nuclear weapons program, and engage in threatening rhetoric and behavior,” Mattis said.
“We stand with our peace-loving Republic of Korea ally to maintain stability on the peninsula and in the region,” he continued. “America’s commitments to defending our allies and to upholding our extended deterrence guarantees remain ironclad: Any attack on the United States, or our allies, will be defeated, and any use of nuclear weapons would be met with a response that would be effective and overwhelming.”
Mattis also spoke about a timeline for deploying the Theater High-Altitude Area Defense (THAAD), which is an advanced U.S. missile defense system that would protect South Korea and Japan against a nuclear attack from the North. China, as well as Russia, have complained that they believe the U.S. deploying the THAAD to the region is provocative.
The United States has a large military presence in South Korea and Japan, with almost 28,500 troops spread between the two. Seoul currently pays about $900 million annually for the U.S. troops to be stationed there, but President Donald Trump has stated that he would like them to pay more.
The Pentagon disclosed that Secretary Mattis used his trip to South Korea as a way to reassure America’s Asian ally that the Trump administration “remains steadfast” in its “iron-clad” commitments.