SEOUL, Korea, Republic Of â€” In his first public remarks abroad as U.S.
Mattis spoke to reporters aboard his military plane en route to Osan air base from Washington. In the brief interview, he said he would be discussing the plan to install a new U.S. missile
North Korea also has said it is nearly ready to test-launch a ballistic missile of intercontinental range, meaning it could theoretically threat the United States.
"Were it not for the provocative
Alluding to China's objections to having Thaad deployed in South Korea, Mattis said, "Thaad should be a worry to no nation other than North Korea."
Mattis held an introductory meeting with Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn, who said he looked forward to working with the Trump administration.
Mattis said he was delivering a message from Trump.
"I talked to President Trump and he wanted to make a very clear statement about the priority that we place on this alliance between our two nations, the secretary said. "Our new administration inherits a very strong, trusted relationship between our two countries and it's our commitment to make it even stronger especially in the face of the provocations that you face from North Korea."
After a series of meetings in Seoul on Thursday and Friday, Mattis was scheduled to fly to Tokyo for further consultations.
In Washington this week, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee held its first policy hearing since Trump took office to discuss North Korea. There were more questions than answers.
Last month, Trump fueled speculation of possible U.S. military action to pre-empt North Korea's weapons development. In response to Kim's threat, Trump tweeted, "It won't happen!" But he didn't elaborate how he could be so sure.
"Does that mean we have drawn a red line?" Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., asked at Tuesday's Senate hearing.
Those questions and more will be posed to Mattis when he meets top officials in Seoul on Thursday and Tokyo later in the week, two jittery allies that host nearly 80,000 U.S. troops.
During the campaign, Trump complained that
Robert Burns, The Associated Press