U.S. defense chief begins one-week trip to Asian region


U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis is set to hold talks with Asian allies about North Korea and the crisis caused by Pyongyang’s provocations, as he kicks off a week-long trip to the region on Monday to meet defense chiefs in the Philippines.

Mattis’ trip to Asia, which will also include stops in Thailand and South Korea, comes just weeks before President Donald Trump’s first visit to Asia.

Trump has been locked in a war of words with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, calling him a “rocket man” on a suicide mission for openly pursuing a nuclear-tipped missile capable of hitting the United States.

Mattis, who has emphasized diplomacy, is expected to meet both his Japanese and South Korean counterparts on Monday before meeting with all three of them together.

He will be attending a meeting of defense ministers from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, known as ASEAN, in the Philippines from Monday to Wednesday before proceeding to Seoul later in the week for more defense talks.

Mattis, will also be commending the Philippines military for defeating insurgents in Marawi City on the island of Mindanao.

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