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Pentagon chief to visit DMZ, warn N. Korea

The top military officials of South Korea and the US will visit the Demilitarized Zone together this week and issue a warning message to North Korea, an official said Thursday.

Defense Minister Song Young-moo and Secretary of Defense James Mattis plan to tour the Joint Security Area, where South and North Korean forces stand face-to-face, on Friday. 

South Korean Defense Minister Song Young-moo (R) and his American counterpart James Mattis shake hands during their talks at the Pentagon on Aug. 30, 2017, in this photo provided by Song`s ministry. (Yonhap)
South Korean Defense Minister Song Young-moo (R) and his American counterpart James Mattis shake hands during their talks at the Pentagon on Aug. 30, 2017, in this photo provided by Song`s ministry. (Yonhap)

With the North several feet away, they plan to read out a statement urging the communist nation to stop provocations.

A day later, Song and Mattis will hold the 49th Security Consultative Meeting, annual talks between the allies’ defense chiefs. This week’s session will be the first SCM under the Moon Jae-in and Trump administrations.

It comes ahead of Trump’s state visit to South Korea from Nov. 7-8.

Key agenda items include the coordination on North Korea and the future of the alliance forged during the 1950-1953 Korean War.

The two sides will have “in-depth” discussions on the North’s threats and related policy coordination, as well as on ways to enhance “extended deterrence” and on the push for an early transfer of conditions-based operational control, according to the Ministry of National Defense.

In particular, they will talk about expanding the “rotational deployment” of so-called US strategic assets to Korea such as aircraft carriers, bomber jets and nuclear-powered submarines, a ministry official told reporters in a background briefing.

Mattis is scheduled to arrive here early Friday morning and head to the truce village of Panmunjom inside the DMZ separating the two Koreas. The secretary will also drop by the nearby Observation Post Ouellette, he added.

In what would be a highly symbolic gesture, Song proposed Mattis wear a Marine Corps combat uniform. The secretary is a retired Marine Corps general. If he accepts the offer, Song, a former Navy admiral, will be dressed in his Navy uniform.

The SCM would set the stage for the second meeting between Song and Mattis in a week. They met each other in Clark, the Philippines, on Monday on the margins of the ASEAN Defense Ministers’ Meeting-Plus.

Wrapping up the visit to Clark, Mattis stressed that the top priority is to resolve the North Korea issue diplomatically.

“Everyone is out for a peaceful resolution. No one’s rushing for war,” he told reporters.

Meanwhile, Trump had a DMZ visit schedule in his initial itinerary here but he is expected to travel instead to Camp Humphreys, a refurbished US military base in Pyeongtaek, some 70 kilometers south of Seoul. (Yonhap)
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