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Mattis' visit to S. Korea shows Trump's priority to strengthen alliance: White House

All Headlines 05:05 February 04, 2017

WASHINGTON, Feb. 3 (Yonhap) -- U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis' visit to South Korea underscores the importance President Donald Trump places on strengthening relations with the Asian ally, the White House said Friday.

"Secretary Mattis' visit emphasizes the priority President Trump places on the Asia-Pacific and on strengthening the U.S.-Republic of Korea alliance in the face of a growing North Korea nuclear and ballistic missile threat," White House press secretary Sean Spicer said at a regular briefing.

Mattis was in Seoul on Thursday and Friday for meetings with South Korean Defense Minister Han Min-koo and other top officials, where he reaffirmed the U.S. commitment to defend the South and further bolster the alliance between the two countries.

The two sides also reaffirmed their planned deployment of the U.S. THAAD missile defense system to cope with North Korean missile threats.

South Korean Defense Minister Han Min-koo (R) and U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis at a press briefing before holding bilateral talks in Seoul on Feb. 3, 2017. (Yonhap)

The visit came as tensions are running high on the Korean Peninsula after North Korean leader Kim Jong-un said the country is close to test-firing an intercontinental ballistic missile apparently capable of reaching the U.S.

It was Mattis' first overseas visit since taking office less than two weeks ago. That underscores the seriousness and urgency with which the retired Marine Corps general takes the threats from North Korea, as well as the importance of the alliances with South Korea and Japan in dealing with the provocative regime.

jschang@yna.co.kr
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