The US Secretary of Defense James Mattis insisted that the Trump administration does not seek war with North Korea but wants to solve the crisis through dialogue. Speaking from South Korea's side of the inter-Korean border demilitarised zone (DMZ), one of the world's most heavily-militarised frontiers, the Pentagon chief said on Friday, 27 October, that the US will push ahead with its efforts towards the denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula.
Mattis visited the eerily-quiet border village of Panmunjom, which sits exactly between the two Koreas. The visit is always symbolic of top US authorities as they can see North Korean territory, which is only yards away.
Mattis' arrival in South Korea comes amid soaring tensions in the region with Pyongyang's repeated threats and aggressive war of words.
"North Korean provocations continue to threaten regional and world peace and, despite unanimous condemnation by the United Nations' Security Council, they still proceed," Mattis said as he stressed the doors of diplomacy have not been shut to ease the situation.
"Ultimately, our diplomats have to be backed up by strong soldiers and sailors, airmen and Marines. So they speak from a position of strength, of combined strength, of alliance strength, shoulder-to-shoulder," he added.
Mattis was accompanied by South Korean Defence Minister Song Young-moo. As the two were visiting the border, tourists apparently watched from the North Korean side.
Quoting US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson's earlier remarks, Mattis emphasised, "Our goal is not war," as he pressured the Kim Jong-un regime to stop threatening other nations "with catastrophe".
On his part, the South Korea defence chief warned the Kim Jong-un regime not to use nuclear weapons or ballistic missiles. He said, "If it does, it will face retaliation by the strong combined force of South Korea and the US."
Mattis' tour comes a week ahead of the planned trip by President Donald Trump, who is likely to prioritise North Korean threats in his Asia trip. However, Trump is not expected to visit the heavily-fortified DMZ.