In an explicit warning to North Korea, U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis on Friday said any use of nuclear weapons by the North on the United States or its allies would be met with what he called an “effective and overwhelming” response.
“North Korea continues to launch missiles, develop its nuclear weapons program, and engage in threatening rhetoric and behavior,” Mr. Mattis said with Mr. Han standing at his side and U.S. and South Korean flags at their backs.
U.S. defense secretaries have long offered assurances to South Korea and Japan that its nuclear “umbrella” will protect them, but Mr. Mattis’s statement was perhaps more pointed than most. He made the remarks during an appearance with his South Korean counterpart, Defense Minister Han Min Koo.
Mr. Mattis’s statement showed by he chose South Korea for his first visit overseas since becoming defense secretary Jan. 20. He sought to reassure South Koreans of the longstanding U.S. commitment to a defense treaty that President Donald Trump suggested during the campaign was a bad deal for America.
“We stand with our peace-loving Republic of Korea ally to maintain stability on the peninsula and in the region,” he added. “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.”