Amid border tensions and escalating belligerent moves by North Korea, US Defence Secretary James Mattis on Friday visited the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) between North and South Korea, on the first day of his visit to Seoul.
Mattis was briefed by US and South Korean Joint Security Area Commanders Lt. Col. Matthew Farmer and Lt. Col. Kwon Young-hwan at the Observation Post Ouellette. Later, he visited two US military installations, Osan airbase and the Yongson garrison in Seoul.
The secretary had come to South Korea from Thailand, where he attended the funeral of late King Bhumibol Adulyadej on Thursday. His trip to South Korea comes ahead of US President Donald Trump's visit to Asia next week.
Trump will most likely forgo a visit to the heavily fortified border between North and South Korea, which the past three US Presidents have visited during trips to South Korea, said one senior White House official earlier this week, CNN reported.
The tension in the border is building up as North Korean Foreign Minister threatened last month while visiting New York for the UN General Assembly that his country will not hesitate using hydrogen bomb, hours after US President Donald Trump threatened to "totally destroy" North Korea in a speech to the UN.
The threat from North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho of the possibility of testing a powerful hydrogen bomb over the Pacific Ocean should be taken literally, reiterated a senior Pyongyang official in an exclusive CNN interview this week.
The official, Ri Yong Pil, told CNN on Wednesday that the threat should not be dismissed. "North Korea has always brought its words into action," he said. "The Foreign Minister is very well aware of the intentions of our supreme leader, so I think you should take his words literally," Ri Yong Pil told CNN.
North Korea carried out the strongest of its nuclear tests in September, claiming to have used a hydrogen bomb. The UN responded to the test by imposing fresh sanctions.