Mattis Pumps up THAAD, But China Likely to Keep 'Bullying' Korea

The new defense chief said that were it not for Pyongyang's "provocative behavior", there would have been no need for the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system in South Korea.

On Friday, Mr Mattis will travel to Japan, for talks with Defence Minister Tomomi Inada.

"THAAD is for defence of our ally's people, of our troops who are committed to their defence", Mattis was quoted as saying by Reuters before landing in Seoul.

The remark was targeted at China that has strongly denounced the decision by the South and the U.S.to deploy THAAD, claiming the system poses threats to its security, despite repeated assurances from Washington that the system is designed only to defend against the North.

But his trip here comes at a time of uncertainty about US intentions after the imposition of new.

Before his election as president, Trump threatened to withdraw United States forces from the two countries if they failed to increase their financial support for America's military presence.

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Mattis arrived at Osan Air Base in South Korea at 1230 KST (0330 GMT) on Thursday, Kim Young-kyu, a press aide from USFK told NK News.

"Mattis sought to lock in the case, but he has little leverage over the political dynamics in Seoul", said Mark Fitzpatrick of the International Institute for Strategic Studies.

"There's only one reason that we even have this under discussion right now, and that is North Korea's activities", Mattis said.

"Two of the most enduring alliances that we have had have been between Japan and us, and of course South Korea and the United States, and together we confront the North Korean situation", he said.

Mattis later attended a dinner held in his honor, hosted by his Seoul counterpart Han Min-koo.

"THAAD should be a worry to no nation other than North Korea", Mattis said.

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Mr Mattis, in his first trip overseas as Pentagon chief, vowed to strengthen ties in talks with South Korean Prime Minister and Acting President Hwang Kyo Ahn. Mattis will visit South Korea and Japan during his first trip as head of the Defense Department.

Mattis also stressed on the US's commitment to the defence of South Korea, which includes the use of extended deterrence, and Washington's pledge to mobilise all of its military capabilities, both nuclear and conventional. Its president, Park Geun-hye, had her duties suspended last month after impeachment over corruption allegations.

South Korea and the United States say the deployment of THAAD is created to protect against North Korea's growing nuclear and ballistic capabilities.

The Unification Ministry in Seoul condemned the statement and urged North Korea to "stop its bellicose rhetoric and take the path toward denuclearization and changes", the Yonhap news agency reported.

"I talked to President Trump and he wanted to make a very clear statement about the priority that we place on the alliance between our two nations", he said. But Trump's withdraw from the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), a bilateral free trade deal that was also opposed by his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton, did away with a key pillar of Obama's rebalance to Asia.

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