Korea talks can't distract from denuclearization: Mattis

Abe Moon to hold summit on Feb.9

U.N. Security Council Resolution 2397 caps North Korea's imports of refined petroleum at 500,000 barrels a year. "Our response to this threat remains diplomacy led, backed up with military options available to ensure that our diplomats are understood to be speaking from a position of strength". "We could fight tonight, shoulder to shoulder with the South Koreans, if they're attacked", the defense secretary told reporters en route from Vietnam to Hawaii.

The administration of U.S. President Donald Trump has said all options are on the table when it comes to North Korea's pursuit of a nuclear-tipped missile capable of striking the United States.

Any North Korean attack would be "severely rebuffed", Mattis added.

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, who will represent the United States at the Olympics, said on Tuesday he would seek to counter what he described as an effort by North Korea to "hijack" the Games with a propaganda campaign.

"I think it is skeptical that North Korea would actually use its nuclear weapon against the US and South Korea", the minister said, responding to questions following his keynote speech at the Fullerton Forum hosted by the International Institute for Strategic Studies.

But Mattis pointed out that South Korean officials have promised to limit the talks to Olympics-related topics. South Korean military officials also have said the drills would resume but it's too soon to disclose the exact date and size.

The nations came together to discuss the Olympics earlier this month.

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North Korea has frequently responded to the exercises - and similar drills held by the allies in the fall - with missile tests and a stream of bellicose rhetoric.

"We're deconflicting during the period of the Olympics, and exercises will continue immediately after the Olympics", joint staff director Lt. Gen. Kenneth McKenzie said Thursday during a press briefing in Washington.

"Diplomacy should repose reason on Kim's reckless rhetoric and risky provocations", he said. Moreover, they emphasized that any efforts to drive a wedge in the U.S. -ROK alliance would fail.

A joint Korean women's hockey team have practised together for the first team on Sunday, after North and South Korea made a decision to join forces for the first time ever at an Olympic competition.

He thanked US allies in the region for their support in upholding ongoing sanctions against North Korean products that have been ratcheted up in response to a slew of missile tests in 2017.

"Diplomacy should impose reason on Kim's reckless rhetoric and risky provocations", Mattis said, at a press conference immediately before his meeting with South Korean Minister of National Defense Song Yong-moo held at U.S. Pacific Command headquarters in Hawaii.

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