The US defence secretary warned North Korea on Friday of an “effective and overwhelming” response if Pyongyang chose to use nuclear weapons.
“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,” Defense Secretary James Mattis said on a visit to South Korea, one of America’s closest allies.
The remarks came as concern from its opponents mounted that North Korea could be readying a new ballistic missile test, in what could be an early diplomatic challenge for President Donald Trump’s administration.
Al Jazeera’s Harry Fawcett, reporting from Seoul, said: “There is a great deal of focus as to potential change in US policy towards North Korea and towards the alliance here in South Korea as well.”
North Korea, which is technically still at war with the South since signing an Armistice agreement in 1953, carried out more than 20 missile tests last year, as well as two nuclear tests, in defiance of UN resolutions and sanctions.
“North Korea continues to launch missiles, develop its nuclear weapons programme and engage in threatening rhetoric and behaviour,” Mattis said at the end of the two-day visit – his first overseas trip.