US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis has assured South Korea of an “ironclad” commitment to its security, including keeping current US troop levels, even as diplomats seek an agreement with North Korea on denuclearisation.
Mattis, during a brief visit to Seoul, also defended President Donald Trump’s decision this month to halt “war games” with South Korea, which led to the suspension of the upcoming Freedom Guardian exercise.
“The recent decision to suspend the Freedom Guardian exercise creates increased opportunity for our diplomats to negotiate, increasing prospects for a peaceful solution on the Korean peninsula,” Mattis said, standing alongside his South Korean counterpart.
The US has 28,500 troops stationed in South Korea.
Mattis met with South Korean Defence Minister Song Young-moo during a brief stopover on his way from China to Japan.
Song said Kim’s separate meetings with Trump and with South Korean President Moon Jae-in have laid the foundation for a permanent peace on the Korean Peninsula.
“If North Korea maintains its commitment to denuclearisation and proves its willingness with actions, we will continue to devise measures to build mutual trust and establish peace,” he said.