U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis said Thursday the Trump administration is committed to strengthening relations with South Korea in the face of what he called the “provocations” that country faces from North Korea.
“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,” he said.
Mattis spoke alongside South Korean Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn at the start of his first overseas trip as Pentagon chief.
Hwang said he looks forward to further consultations on the U.S.-South Korea alliance and “responding to North Korea’s nuclear issue.”
Before landing in South Korea, Mattis told reporters traveling with him that one topic of conversation during his visit will be the THAAD missile defense system, which the U.S. and South Korea want to deploy this year over the objections of China.
“Were it not for the provocative behavior of North Korea, we would have no need for THAAD out here,” Mattis said. “There is no other nation that needs to be concerned about THAAD other than North Korea if they are engaged in something that is offensive.”
His trip also includes a planned stop in Japan.