Defense Chief Tries to Quash Friction Over THAAD

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said on Friday he was convinced that together with U.S. President Donald Trump and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, they would be able to demonstrate an "unwavering alliance" between the two countries.

Once fully developed, a North Korean ICBM could threaten the continental United States, which is about 9,000 km (5,500 miles) from North Korea.

He also suggested they could be allowed to arm themselves with nuclear weapons.

"Faced with a current severe security situation, Secretary Mattis' visit to Korea ... also communicates the strongest warning to North Korea", Han said.

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South Korea and Japan are looking to Mattis for guarantees that the longstanding alliances between the countries will stand.

Kim Jong Un's regime carried out its last ballistic missile test on October 20, soon after US and ally South Korea agreed to push further military and diplomatic measures to counter the Pyongyang's nuclear capabilities.

During the meetings, Mattis said the Trump administration places a priority on the U.S.

Mattis, who was sworn in as defense secretary the day of President Trump's inauguration, is also visiting Japan on the second leg of his trip to the Asia-Pacific. The North Korea threat is likely to top the agenda there as well. Last year, Chinese ambassador to South Korea had said S Korea-China relationship will end in "an instant" if USA deploys THAAD.

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The proposed deployment of Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system by the US in South Korea this year is one of the many points of conflict between America and China.

Tensions are high on the divided peninsula after North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un said his country is in the "final stages" of developing an intercontinental ballistic missile.

He also praised South Korea - which has almost 30,000 U.S. troops stationed there - as a "lynchpin of peace and stability" in the Asia-Pacific region. "Despite things not being figured out so much as far as how the Trump administration will take any new initiatives with its two north-east Asian allies, but it's meant as a signal of reassurance", he said.

The comment appears to be made in light of China's objection to the anti-missile system on grounds that it may destabilize the regional security balance.

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"A THAAD deployment may have a risky impact on the situation on the peninsula.We regard it as part of the USA global missile defense program, which is stationed along the Russian borders and therefore poses a threat to our security", Timonin said. However a Chinese foreign ministry spokesman told the BBC on Friday that Beijing "remained firmly opposed to the deployment of the missile system".


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