World Bulletin / News Desk
Trump had claimed on the campaign trail that the South should pay more for American military protection, raising concerns over his attitude towards an alliance that was cemented during the 1950-53 Korean War.
“His trip underscores the U.S. defense commitment to South Korea and the bilateral alliance, as well as the importance of the Korean Peninsula and the Asia-Pacific region," South Korea’s ministry said in a statement carried by local news agency Yonhap.
The Pentagon announced hours earlier that Mattis will arrive in Seoul on Feb. 2 for talks with his South Korean counterpart Han Min-koo, before heading to Japan a day later.
66-year-old "Mad Dog" Mattis – whose military career spanned more than four decades – already suggested at his confirmation hearing this month that nothing should be off the table in handling the “serious threat” posed by North Korea’s nuclear ambitions.
Pyongyang has said it is ready to test an intercontinental ballistic missile at any time – having already drawn tougher global sanctions for a pair of nuclear tests among dozens of provocations last year.