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New US defence secretary criticises 'provocative' North Korea

US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis has criticised North Korea for provocative acts in his first public remarks abroad in his new role.

Mr Mattis said he would consult with South Korean and Japanese officials about whether the current strategy for getting the North to curtail or eliminate its nuclear and missile programmes is adequate.

He spoke to reporters aboard his military plane en route to Osan air base in South Korea from Washington DC.

In the brief interview, he said he would be discussing plans to install a new US missile defence system, called Thaad, in South Korea as a means of deterring the North's ballistic missile threats against South Korea and Japan.

North Korea has also said it is nearly ready to test-launch a ballistic missile of intercontinental range, meaning it could theoretically threaten the US.

"Were it not for the provocative behaviour of North Korea, we would have no need for Thaad out here," Mr Mattis said.

Alluding to China's objections to having Thaad deployed in South Korea, Mr Mattis said: "Thaad should be a worry to no nation other than North Korea."

He held an introductory meeting with Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn, who said he looked forward to working with the Trump administration.

Mr Mattis said he was delivering a message from Mr Trump.

"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," the secretary said.

"Our new administration inherits a very strong, trusted relationship between our two countries and it's our commitment to make it even stronger, especially in the face of the provocations that you face from North Korea."

After a series of meetings in Seoul on Thursday and Friday, Mr Mattis was scheduled to fly to Tokyo for further consultations.



From Belfast Telegraph