New Defense Secretary Jim Mattis warned North Korea on Friday that any use of nuclear weapons by that country on the United States or its allies would be met with an “effective and overwhelming response,” The Associated Press reported.

Mattis, during an appearance with his South Korean counterpart, Defense Minister Han Min Koo, said that the U.S. commitment to defending its allies remained “ironclad.”

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“We stand with our peace-loving Republic of Korea ally to maintain stability on the peninsula and in the region,” Mattis said. “America’s commitments to defending our allies and to upholding our extended deterrence guarantees remain ironclad: Any attack on the United States, or our allies, will be defeated, and any use of nuclear weapons would be met with a response that would be effective and overwhelming.”

The AP also reported that Mattis discussed a timetable for deploying an advanced U.S. missile defense system, the Theater High-Altitude Area Defense (THAAD). The system is meant to improve the protection of South Korea, Japan, and U.S. troops stationed in both countries against a North Korean missile attack. He called it an example of “defensive steps” the United States is taking in response to Pyongyang’s “threatening rhetoric and destabilizing behavior.”

“Were it not for the provocative behavior of North Korea, we would have no need for THAAD out here,” Mattis said to reporters.

In one of his first acts as Secretary of Defense, the man called Mad Dog put North Korea on notice (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

Cox Media Group National Content Desk