Mattis: U.S. takes N. Korea’s missile capability ‘very seriously’

June 26, 2018

WASHINGTON, June 26 (Yonhap) — The United States takes the threat of North Korea’s ballistic missiles “very seriously,” U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said Tuesday in the wake of recent diplomatic efforts to denuclearize the regime.

Mattis was speaking at a press conference in Alaska en route to China, South Korea and Japan.

“That capability still exists today, so clearly we take that very, very seriously,” he said, referring to North Korea’s ability to launch intercontinental ballistic missiles. “But our hopes are riding with the diplomats, so we’re going to see progress in the days and weeks ahead.”

The U.S. and North Korea have been engaging in a rare flurry of diplomacy to dismantle the regime’s nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs that sent tensions soaring last year.

The talks culminated in a historic summit between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Singapore on June 12.

In a joint statement signed after the meeting, Kim committed to work towards “complete denuclearization” of the Korean Peninsula in exchange for unspecified security guarantees from the U.S.

Trump declared shortly after the summit that there is “no longer a Nuclear Threat from North Korea.”

Mattis was asked if he was confident in the U.S. missile defense system based on his visit to Fort Greely, Alaska, a launch site for anti-ballistic missile interceptor missiles.

“I’m absolutely confident the missile defense system will work,” he replied.

Mattis is due to arrive in Seoul on Thursday for talks with South Korean Defense Minister Song Young-moo.

The two men will discuss the next steps following the suspension of several joint military exercises, a decision Trump said would help conduct denuclearization negotiations in good faith.