The new U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis made clear that the Trump administration views the Seoul-Washington alliance as a priority when he met with South Korean senior officials in Seoul on Thursday.
Having chosen South Korea as the first destination of his first official trip overseas, he separately met with South Korean Acting President Hwang Kyo-ahn and National Security Office Chief Kim Kwan-jin and highlighted Washington's security commitment to Seoul.
Meeting with Hwang, Mattis said the new U.S. administration will build on the strong relationship it has inherited and that the two countries must go together in responding to North Korean threats.
Acting President Hwang in response said he hopes to see progress in dealing with Pyongyang with Mattis' visit to Seoul as he highly assessed the 60-year's alliance.
Mattis also hinted that reaffirming the THAAD unit deployment to the Korean peninsula was an important reason for his decision to visit Seoul in a timely manner.
The top U.S. defense chief stated that the Trump administration will deal with North Korea's nuclear threats as a top security priority and agreed with National Security Office Chief Kim that both allies will strongly respond to any additional North Korean provocation.
The main event in Mattis' agenda is scheduled for Friday, when he will sit down for formal talks with his South Korean counterpart Han Min-koo.
What message the two defense chiefs will send to North Korea is one point to keep an eye on and the North's response is another.
Connie Kim, Arirang News.