US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis says threat posed by Kim Jong-un accelerating
VIDEO: Jim Mattis says any North Korean attack will be met with an 'overwhelming' military response. (ABC News)
US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis
says North Korea is posing an increasing threat to Seoul and the world through its "illegal and unnecessary" missile program.
Speaking in Seoul with South Korean Defence Minister Song Young-moo, General Mattis said the US's military and diplomatic cooperation with the South had taken on a new urgency.
"North Korea has accelerated the threat that it poses to its neighbours and the world through its illegal and unnecessary missile and nuclear weapons programs," he said.
"I cannot imagine a condition under which the United States would accept North Korea as a nuclear power."
General Mattis had been at pains during his week-long trip to Asia to stress that diplomacy was the preferred course for the US, a message he returned to after top-level military talks in South Korea.
He did clarify diplomacy was most effective "when backed by credible military force".
Tensions between North Korea and the US have been building after a series of nuclear and missile tests by Pyongyang and bellicose verbal exchanges between Kim Jong-un and Donald Trump.
Earlier this week, Japan warned the hermit state's nuclear and ballistic missile capabilities had grown to an "unprecedented, critical and imminent" level.
The CIA has said North Korea could be only months away from developing the ability to hit the US with nuclear weapons, a scenario Mr Trump has vowed to prevent.
Mr Song told the news conference he and Mr Mattis agreed limits on South Korea's conventional missile warhead payloads would be lifted. He offered no specifics.
Also discussed were the conditions under which South Korea would be given wartime operational control of its forces.
Currently, if war with the North broke out, the South's forces would operate under US-led United Nations Command.
Mr Mattis said the North was, in effect, shooting itself in the foot.
"If it remains on its current path of ballistic missiles and atomic bombs, it will be counterproductive, in effect reducing its security," he said.
This was Mr Mattis' second visit to South Korea since taking office in January.
Mr Trump — who has threatened to "totally destroy" the North if necessary — will be on his first trip as President to Asia next week, including a stop in South Korea to meet President Moon Jae-in.
Mr Moon, after talks with Mr Mattis on Friday, said the "aggressive deployment" of US strategic assets in the region, which have included overflights by US bombers, had been effective in deterring the North Korean threat.
VIDEO: Secretary of State Rex Tillerson says US-North Korea diplomacy will continue until 'first bomb drops' (ABC News)
North Korea accuses US of 'criminal moves' as three Navy carriers operate in Asian waters
- North Korea accused the U.S. of making "criminal moves for igniting a war of aggression," according to a state-run outlet.
- The hermit state chided calls for denuclearization talks and slammed President Donald Trump as seeking the "extinction" of North Korea.
- Three carrier strike groups are in Asian waters in a show of force against nuclear-armed North Korea.