Mattis to make debut trip to Tokyo, Seoul soon: Official

Seoul, Jan 25 (IANS) New US Defence Secretary James Mattis is scheduled to visit Japan and South Korea next week in his debut trip overseas, sources in Tokyo and Seoul said on Wednesday.

“We are in talks with our US counterparts to hold the defence ministers’ meeting early next month (February) in Seoul. We are fine-tuning the detailed schedule,” a spokesperson of the South Korean ministry told Yonhap news agency.

Several Japanese officials also said that the Shinzo Abe-led administration is preparing to receive Mattis in Tokyo during his Asian trip, Kyodo news agency reported.

This will be James Mattis’ first trip abroad since the US senate confirmed him as the Pentagon chief on January 20, as well as the first visit to Asia by a member of the new US administration, Efe news reported.

Mattis is scheduled to visit Tokyo on February 2, to pay a courtesy call to the Japanese Prime Minister and will meet the Japanese Defence Minister Tomomi Inada the following day, the sources added.

Tokyo believes this meeting will serve to reaffirm the importance of its security alliance with Washington with a view to ensuring peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region.

On February 4, Mattis and his South Korean counterpart, Han Min-koo, are expected to discuss their common position on nuclear and missile threats from North Korea.

They would also discuss the deployment of the THAAD anti-missile system, according to sources in Seoul.

During his electoral campaign, Trump had threatened to withdraw American troops from Japan and South Korea unless the two countries pay for US military presence.