WASHINGTON/SEOUL, Jan. 30 (Yonhap) -- U.S. President Donald Trump reaffirmed Washington's "ironclad commitment" to South Korea's defense and agreed to take steps to bolster joint defense capabilities, the White House said Sunday.
Trump made the remark when he spoke by phone with South Korea's Acting President and Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn and discussed the importance of the alliance between the two countries, the White House said in a statement.
"President Trump reiterated our ironclad commitment to defend the ROK, including through the provision of extended deterrence, using the full range of military capabilities. The two leaders agreed to take steps to strengthen joint defense capabilities to defend against the North Korean threat," the statement said.
The two leaders also discussed U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis' upcoming trip to South Korea next week and noted the trip "reflects the close friendship between our two countries and demonstrates the importance of the U.S.-ROK alliance," the White House said.
Trump and Hwang "pledged to advance mutual security and prosperity," it said.
Hwang congratulated Trump on his inauguration and Trump wished Hwang and the South Korean people a prosperous and happy Lunar New Year, the White House said.
The phone conversation came amid heightened tensions on the Korean Peninsula after North Korean leader Kim Jong-un threatened in his New Year's Day address to test-fire an intercontinental ballistic missile apparently capable of reaching the U.S.
Hwang has been serving as the acting president since President Park Geun-hye was impeached by parliament over corruption allegations on Dec. 9.
Trump already had a phone conversation with Park on Nov. 10 (Korea time), days after his election victory. During the conversation, the Republican leader said the United States will be "steadfast and strong" in defending against a provocative North Korea.
Alarmed by a series of campaign remarks by Trump that were skeptical of military alliances and trade deals with American allies and partners, Seoul has been trying to maintain close ties with Washington, its top security ally.
Out on the stump, Trump made a host of speeches that questioned the economic value of U.S. security partnerships with allies like South Korea and Japan, and disparaged the South Korea-U.S. free trade agreement as a "job-killing" deal.