As North Korean soldiers looked on, U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis said Friday his administration does not want war but hopes for the complete denuclearization of Korea.
Standing several meters away from North Korea, he urged the Kim Jong-un regime to halt provocations that threaten others "with catastrophe."
"As Secretary of State Tillerson has made clear, our goal is not war but rather the complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula," the Pentagon chief said in a brief statement at the truce village of Panmunjom inside the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ).
He stressed his unprecedented DMZ visit highlights the "stark difference" between the two Koreas.
The North is ridden with an "oppressive regime" that shackles its people, while the South boasts a vibrant, thriving democracy and free society, he pointed out.
Reading out his own statement next to Mattis, South Korean Defense Minister Song Young-moo emphasized that the North's nuke and ballistic missiles are "weapons that can't be used."
"If it does, it will face retaliation by the strong combined force of South Korea and the U.S.," he said.
The minister said he and the secretary are here together to confirm the ironclad alliance "without a single inch of error."
He called on Pyongyang to return to inter-Korean dialogue as early as possible.
Song said Panmunjom was once a venue for talks between the two Koreas and armistice negotiations that effectively ended the 1950-53 Korean War.
"But now, all dialogue is in a state of being severed," he added.