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Standing at the world’s most dangerous border, Mattis sends a warning to North Korea

On an unannounced visit to the heavily fortified demilitarized zone between North and South Korea, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis reaffirmed the U.S. alliance with the South in the face of increasing provocations from the North, while declaring a commitment to diplomacy and denuclearization of the peninsula. John Yang reports on the administration's efforts to increase pressure on North Korea.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    New messages today to North Korea.

    The U.S. secretary of defense delivered one of them at the heavily fortified demilitarized zone that divides North and South Korea. His unannounced visit came at a moment of extreme tension.

    John Yang reports.

  • John Yang:

    Standing on the world's most tense and dangerous border, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis spoke to U.S. and South Korean troops about diplomacy.

  • Jim Mattis:

    Our goal is not war, but rather the complete, verifiable, and irreversible denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

  • John Yang:

    With North Korean soldiers looking on from their side of the demilitarized zone, Mattis reaffirmed full U.S. military support for the South.

  • Jim Mattis:

    It is an alliance designed to ensure peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula and the strongest military defense of our shared democratic values.

  • John Yang:

    Mattis and his South Korean counterpart warned against North Korean provocations, like new missile and nuclear tests.

  • Song Young-Moo:

    (Through interpreter) The nuclear weapon and the missiles North Korea is developing are not something usable. If they were to use it, we want to make clear that the alliance of South Korea and the United States will punish North Korea for such intention.

  • John Yang:

    The warning is underscored by the impending arrival in the region of three U.S. carrier strike groups for what the Navy calls long-planned maneuvers.

    North Korea has been issuing warnings of its own, that it plans nuclear tests in the atmosphere over the Pacific. All of this follows on the fiery war of words between President Trump, who's threatened to destroy North Korea, and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, who has called Mr. Trump mentally deranged.

    Next week, Mr. Trump makes his first trip to Asia as president, including a visit to Seoul to meet with South Korean President Moon Jae-in. General Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs, was in Seoul today, meeting with his South Korean counterparts, and Vice President Pence made a pointed visit to Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota, home to nuclear bombers and missiles.

  • Vice President Mike Pence:

    Anyone who would threaten our nation should know that America always seeks peace, but if we are forced to defend ourselves or our allies, we will do so with military power that is effective and overwhelming.

  • John Yang:

    Meanwhile, the administration is using other tools to increase pressure on North Korea, this week imposing new economic sanctions.

    For the PBS NewsHour, I'm John Yang.

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