PANMUNJOM, KOREAN DEMILITARISED ZONE (REUTERS) - US Defence Secretary James Mattis peered across South Korea's heavily fortified border with the North on Friday (Oct 27), saying America's goal was not to wage war with Pyongyang but to convince leader Kim Jong Un to give up his nuclear arsenal.
"North Korean provocations continue to threaten regional and global security despite unanimous condemnation by the United Nations Security Council," Mattis said in prepared remarks as he visited the demilitarised zone (DMZ) dividing the peninsula.
"As Secretary of State Tillerson has made clear, our goal is not war, but rather the complete, verifiable, and irreversible denuclearization of the Korean peninsula."
Standing several meters away from North Korea, he urged the Kim Jong Un regime to halt provocations that threaten others "with catastrophe".
Mattis stressed that his unprecedented DMZ visit is aimed at highlighting the "stark difference" between the two Koreas.
The North is ridden with an "oppressive regime" that shackles its people, while the South boasts a vibrant, thriving democracy and free society, he was quoted as saying by South Korea's Yonhap news agency.
Standing next to the US defence chief was South Korean Defense Minister Song Young Moo who said that the two allies will continue to defend peace through "strong will and strong might”.
Song called on Pyongyang to return to inter-Korean dialogue as early as possible, adding that Panmunjom was once a venue for talks between the two Koreas and armistice negotiations that effectively ended the 1950-53 Korean War.
"But now, all dialogue is in a state of being severed," he added.
The two Koreas, which are still technically at war after their 1950-53 conflict ended in a truce not a peace treaty, will have a rare chance to meet when North Korea releases on Friday afternoon a South Korean fishing boat was found illegally in North Korean waters last week.
The proposed return of the South Korean fishing boat and its crew would avoid potentially worsening already strained relations between Pyongyang and South Korea and its U.S. ally.
The South Korean fishing boat was seized on Oct. 21 and investigation by the North found the boat and crew entered North Korean waters for fishing, state news agency KCNA reported.
North Korea decided to release the boat after “taking into account the fact that all the crewmen honestly admitted their offence, repeatedly apologising and asking for leniency,” the report said in English.
The vessel and its crew would be released in waters at the military boundary between the two Koreas at around 5.30pm on Friday.