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Mattis: Too early to judge inter-Korean talks

All Headlines 23:50 February 12, 2018

WASHINGTON, Feb. 12 (Yonhap) -- U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis expressed reservations about recent talks between South and North Korea, saying it's "too early" to say whether the talks are a positive sign from Pyongyang.

Mattis was speaking to reporters Sunday on the first leg of his European trip in the wake of a flurry of rare inter-Korean diplomacy surrounding the Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un sent a high-level delegation led by his younger sister, Yo-jong, to Friday's opening ceremony as part of an agreement reached during a series of inter-Korean talks this year.

He also invited South Korean President Moon Jae-in to visit Pyongyang for a summit.

"Clearly it's too early to say ... if using the Olympics ... in a way to reduce tension, if that's going to have any traction once the Olympics are over. We can't say right now," Mattis said.

It's unclear, he said, whether the North Koreans talking is a "sign."

This AP file photo shows U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. (Yonhap)

"It's too early for me to tell what he'll do, because in the midst of all of this, he ran a military parade that highlighted his ballistic missiles," the U.S. defense chief said, referring to Kim Jong-un and the parade he staged on the eve of the Olympics. "That's a very strange time, if in fact he's trying to show a warming to the country that he has attacked repeatedly as an American puppet, a country that impeached their last president."

South Korea is "clearly a democracy," he added. "It runs its own affairs. So, it's just too early to tell."

Mattis reaffirmed that the alliance between Washington and Seoul remains strong.

"I know that people are watching for a wedge between South Korea, Republic of Korea, in other words, and the United States," he said. "There's no wedge there. The military staffs are integrated.

"So in a political level in Seoul, there is no wedge that can be driven between us by North Korea," he said.


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