S. Korea, U.S. defense ministers to meet over N. Korean threats

South Korean Defense Minister Song Young-moo and the U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis are to meet at the Pentagon Wednesday to discuss their response to North Korea’s increasing ballistic missile threats, Yonhap news agency reported.

The meeting comes two days after North Korea launched a Hwasong-12 intermediate range ballistic missile (IRBM) over Japan, signaling it will not back down from its ballistic missile and nuclear programs.

It will be Song’s first meeting with Mattis since he took office last month.

The allies have said they will seek a diplomatic solution to the nuclear problem but back it up with military force if called for. Song and Mattis are expected to reaffirm the strength of the alliance in the event of hostilities on the peninsula.

South Korea has asked the U.S. to allow it to double the weight of warheads on ballistic missiles from the current 500 kilograms to 1 ton.

Other issues include the planned transfer of wartime operational control of South Korean troops from Washington to Seoul, and the ongoing deployment of a U.S. missile defense battery to southeastern South Korea. Seoul has also begun deliberations to build nuclear-powered submarines in the face of North Korea’s submarine-launched ballistic missiles.

Later in the day, he is scheduled to also meet White House National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster. On Thursday, he is to leave for Hawaii, where he plans to visit the U.S. Pacific Command and meet with its commander, Adm. Harry Harris.

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