Mattis Reassures South Korea of 'Ironclad' US Support
U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis reassured South Korea on Thursday that U.S. commitment to its security "remains ironclad."
The comments came as Mattis met with the South Korean Defense Minister in Seoul while negotiators from both countries continue toward the goal of a denuclearized North Korea.
Earlier this month, U.S. President Donald Trump announced the suspension of military exercises with South Korea after he held a summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. North Korea had long called for the drills to stop amid fears they were aimed at planning an invasion, which the U.S. and South Korean militaries denied.
Trump's move raised concerns among U.S. allies in the region about the continuing security assistance the United States would provide.
Mattis said Thursday halting the exercises creates a better chance for peace on the Korean peninsula. But he said the number of U.S. troops stationed there will not change, and that both militaries remain "vigilant and ready to defend against any challenge."
The Pentagon chief travels on to Japan for meetings there with senior officials.
He made an earlier stop in China where he met with President Xi Jinping and raised concerns about militarization and freedom of navigation in the South China Sea.
Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy to Retire
Justice Anthony Kennedy, a moderate on the Supreme Court, announced his retirement on Wednesday, giving President Donald Trump the second opportunity of his presidency to put forward a more conservative judge and alter the makeup of the nation's highest court.
Kennedy, 81, has often cast the decisive vote in landmark Supreme Court cases during his 30 years on the bench, including those involving abortion, gay rights and voting rights.
His retirement becomes effective at the end of July.
In a statement, Kennedy said it had been his “greatest honor and privilege to serve our nation in the federal judiciary for 43 years, 30 years of those years on the Supreme Court."
A Trump-named successor would likely create a solid five-member conservative majority on the court. Without Kennedy, the court will be split between four liberal justices who were appointed by Democratic presidents and four conservatives who were named by Republicans.
Kennedy has authored major Supreme Court opinions, including a 1992 ruling that reaffirmed abortion rights, and a landmark 2015 decision that legalized same-sex marriage in the United States.
But in his final decision on the Supreme Court, Kennedy joined the court’s four conservative justices on Tuesday in upholding the Trump administration’s controversial travel ban on citizens of five predominantly Muslim countries.