North Korea ‘threat’: US and Seoul boost defences

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The announcement from the Pentagon comes amid reports Pyongyang is in the final stages of preparing a new missile test.

The South’s acting President Hwang Kyo-Ahn has warned the North is developing its nuclear capabilities at an “unprecedented pace”.

New Defence Secretary James Mattis told his South Korean counterpart Han Min-Koo during a phone call that the US remained committed to defending the country and will “provide extended deterrence using the full range of US capabilities”.

A reactor at the Yongbyon plant has reportedly been restarted that could produce more plutonium for nuclear weapons
Image Caption:A reactor at the Yongbyon plant has reportedly been restarted

The South Korean Defence Ministry said the two sides had agreed to go ahead with plans to deploy the Terminal High Altitude Area Defence (THAAD) missile defence system to defend against North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic capabilities.

China has objected to THAAD as it fears it could penetrate its own territory and wants South Korea to delay or cancel it.

Mr Mattis is in South Korea on Thursday and Friday, before he heads to Japan in his first overseas tour since his appointment by Donald Trump earlier this month.

Both longstanding US allies have raised concerns about the US President’s approach to the region.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un applauds as he watches a military parade in honour of the 100th birthday of the late North Korean leader Kim Il-Sung in Pyongyang on April 15, 2012. North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un delivered his first ever public speech at a major military parade in Pyongyang to mark 100 years since the birth of the country's founder Kim Il-Sung.


Video:North Korea: Credible Threat?

During his election campaign, Mr Trump threatened to withdraw US forces from the two countries if they failed to step up their financial support for their defences.

Before his inauguration he warned North Korea that its plans to put parts of America in range of a nuclear missile “won’t happen”.

The North also appears to have restarted its operation of a reactor at its main Yongbyon nuclear facility that produces plutonium which it could use for its nuclear weapons programme.

It has carried out a series of nuclear and missile tests during the last 12 months in defiance of UN sanctions.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un used his New Year’s message to boast the secretive state was in the “final stages” of developing a long-range missile.

The North and South are technically still at war because their 1950-53 conflict ended in a truce, rather than a peace treaty.

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