U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis, who is on a visit to South Korea, has warned the North of “effective and overwhelming” response if Pyongyang carries out a nuclear strike against America or its Asian allies. Mattis reassured Seoul of the Trump administration’s commitment to defend it and reconfirmed the deployment of Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (T.H.A.A.D.) missile defense system in S. Korea.
Last year, North Korea conducted a string of missile tests along with two nuclear launches in a brazen defiance of U.N. resolutions and sanctions, writes Al Jazeera. Observers in the U.S. also believe that the North has restarted producing nuclear-grade plutonium in a reactor at its main Yongbyon facility.
Lee Ji-yong, a professor at the Institute for Foreign Affairs and Security, says growing hostilities in the U.S.-Sino ties increase the North’s strategic value for China, keeping Beijing away from pushing Pyongyang to give up its nuclear program, notes the Guardian.