United States defence secretary James Mattis affirms U.S. commitment to South Korea

Mattis began a lightning-fast visit to Asia this week - the first foreign trip by a member of President Trump's still-incomplete Cabinet - less than two weeks after being sworn in as the Pentagon boss.

"If Trump is trying to erase [President] Obama's legacy, shouldn't his interest be to destroy policies pushed by the former president, such as zero communication with North Korea and the deployment of THAAD?" said Oh.

Arriving in a Boeing E-4B Advanced Airborne Command Post, more commonly known as the "Doomsday Plane" because it was created to enable Washington's highest-level military officials to stay in command during a nuclear crisis, Mattis kicked off a two-day trip in Yongsan District, central Seoul, at the headquarters of the USA military forces in South Korea. "Were it not for the provocative behavior of North Korea, we would have no need for THAAD out here", Mattis said.

Earlier on the plane Mattis told reporters he would talk to South Korean leaders about the deployment of the USA missile defense system THAAD, The New York Times reported. "He also underscored that the United States remains steadfast in its commitment to defend the ROK and that the US extended deterrence commitment remains ironclad", Ross said in a statement.

"Indeed, within the span of President Trump's current four-year term in office, it is probable that Pyongyang will deploy a mobile, nuclear-tipped ICBM capable of striking US territory", he said.

There are just under 28,500 USA military personnel based in South Korea, as part of a post-war arrangement.

"While Trump's "America first" pledge may lead to USA retreat from numerous world affairs, he is going to strengthen the United States presence in Northeast Asia", said Cui. -South Korean alliance, Defense Department spokesperson Navy Cmdr.

Mattis is scheduled to meet with South Korean defense minister Han Min-koo. Both Japan and South Korea have been concerned about Trump questioning the value of U.S. alliances on the campaign trail and last week's withdrawal from the Trans Pacific Partnership trade deal.

Mr Mattis is expected to use the visit to reassure Seoul of continuing U.S. commitment to security deals in the face of threats from North Korea. He said at the time in a separate Tweet that China, North Korea's closest ally, wasn't assisting with the denuclearization pursuit. Some 28,500 United States troops are based in South Korea and 47,000 in Japan. Its president, Park Geun-hye, had her duties suspended last month after impeachment over corruption allegations.

"I talked to President Trump and he wanted to make a very clear statement about the priority that we place on this alliance between our two nations", said the Pentagon chief, who held an introductory meeting with Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn on Thursday, as quoted by AP. He also jolted the region by pulling Washington out of an Asia-Pacific trade deal that Japan had championed.

Kent Calder, director of Asia programs at Johns Hopkins' School of Advanced International Studies, said Mattis could bolster Japan's confidence by explicitly reaffirming that disputed East China Sea islands are covered by the U.S. -Japan defense treaty.

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