U.S. defense chief says N. Korea a topic on Asia trip

WASHINGTON, U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said Monday he is sure to discuss the North Korean nuclear crisis when he meets with his counterparts in Indonesia and Vietnam this week.

Speaking to reporters en route to Jakarta, Mattis was asked if North Korea will be part of the discussions.

"Yes, North Korea comes up in our discussions everywhere in the world, because this is a global issue," he said, according to a transcript released by the Pentagon.

Recalling last week's meeting on North Korea in Vancouver, which he attended along with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Mattis said the European leaders gathered there also voiced concern about the North's growing capability to launch a nuclear missile strike.

"So that shows that this continues to be a subject wherever we are in the world, as the entire world -- you've seen three unanimous (United Nations) Security Council resolutions on the issue of strengthening sanctions (against North Korea), and this is an ongoing effort," he said. "So I'm sure it will come out in both of these countries."

The defense chief's trip is aimed at reaffirming the "enduring U.S. commitment to the Indo-Pacific," according to the Pentagon. After stops in Indonesia and Vietnam, Mattis plans to visit Hawaii to meet with U.S. Pacific Command chief Adm. Harry Harris.

Sources in Seoul said he could also meet there with South Korean Defense Minister Song Young-moo to discuss alliance issues ahead of next month's PyeongChang Winter Olympics. The two countries earlier agreed to postpone annual joint military exercises until after the Games to help reduce tensions on the peninsula.

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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