WASHINGTON, Oct. 27, 2017 —
Standing in the Demilitarized Zone with South Korean Defense Minister Song Young-moo, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said the visit portrays in strong terms the difference between North Korea and South Korea.
The U.S.-South Korean counterparts made joint statements today at Freedom House in the Joint Security Area -- the only portion of the Korean Demilitarized Zone where North and South Korean forces stand face-to-face -- after a tour of the “Truce Village” there and Observation Post Oullette.
“I'm here today to reaffirm the United States' ironclad commitment to the South Korean people,” the secretary said.
“To the south lies a vibrant country, a vibrant economy, a free country, and it's underpinned by peace-loving members of a free society,” Mattis said of South Korea. “Behind me, to the north, an oppressive regime that shackles its people, denying their freedom, their welfare and their human dignity in pursuit of nuclear weapons in the means of delivery, in order to threaten [others] with catastrophe.”
North Korea Continues Threats
North Korean provocations continue to threaten regional and world peace, the secretary pointed out, adding that despite the unanimous condemnation by the United Nations Security Council, the rogue nation continues its actions.
“As the U.S. Secretary of State [Rex] Tillerson has made clear, our goal is not war, but rather the complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula,” Mattis said.
Addressing Song, he noted that two days ago at the Association of Southeast Asian Nations meeting in the Philippines, “we made clear our mutual commitment to a diplomatic solution to address North Korea's reckless, outlaw behavior. And together we noted that we are serious about solving this problem.”
The United States stands shoulder-to-shoulder with South Korea, its soldiers and its people in confronting the threats posed by the regime of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, Mattis said.
The secretary told the minister he looks forward to their discussion tomorrow at the Security Consultative Meeting, where they will discuss ways to further strengthen the South Korean-U.S. alliance.
“This is an alliance of more than 60 years, and one that we both know is built on trust,” Mattis said. “It is an alliance designed to ensure peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula and the strongest military defense of our shared democratic values.”
“[We] also strongly implore that North Korea stop its reckless provocations and come out toward the path of peace and dialogue,” the South Korean defense minister said.
“And the minister of national defense of the Republic of Korea and the United States secretary of defense … together will continue to defend peace through strong will and strong might,” Song said.
(Follow Terri Moon Cronk on Twitter: @MoonCronkDOD)