Mattis to visit Japan, South Korea on first overseas trip as Pentagon chief

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President-elect Donald Trump's nominee for Secretary of Defense James Mattis (R) meets with Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. Photo by Joshua Roberts/Reuters

President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee for Secretary of Defense James Mattis (R) meets with Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. Photo by Joshua Roberts/Reuters

WASHINGTON — Defense Secretary James Mattis will travel to Japan and South Korea next week for his first overseas visit since taking office, the Pentagon said Wednesday.

A Pentagon spokesman, Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, said Mattis would meet with his Korean counterpart in Seoul on Feb. 2 and his Japanese counterpart the following day. The U.S. has thousands of troops based in both countries.

“The trip will underscore the commitment of the United States to our enduring alliances with Japan and the Republic of Korea, and further strengthen U.S.-Japan-Republic of Korea security cooperation,” Davis said.

At his Senate confirmation hearing and in his first days in office, Mattis, a retired Marine general, has stressed the importance of maintaining international alliances. President Donald Trump raised concerns during the campaign by asserting that some allies are not pulling their weight and by suggesting that he might not object to Japan or South Korea developing their own nuclear weapons if they do not pay more for U.S. military support.

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