U.S. Defence Secretary Jim Mattis said on Friday North Korea’s recent statements were provocative but had proven to be hollow in the past and should not be trusted.

“As far as North Korea’s latest words (are concerned), I think we’ve all come to hear their words repeatedly, their word has not proven honest,” Mattis told a news conference in Tel Aviv.

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On Thursday the official newspaper of North Korea’s ruling Workers’ Party, Rodong Sinmun, threatened the U.S. with a “super-mighty preemptive strike” that it said would wipe out “not only the U.S. imperialists’ invasion forces in South Korea and its surrounding areas but the U.S. mainland and reduce them to ashes”.

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In another development, Mattis also told reporters said that Syria has retained chemical weapons in violation of an agreement to get rid of its entire stockpile.

“There can be no doubt in the international community’s mind that Syria has retained chemical weapons in violation of its agreement and its statement that it had removed them all.

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“There is no longer any doubt,” Mattis told reporters during a visit to Tel Aviv.

Asked whether the Syrian military had moved its combat aircraft to a Russian base in Latakia, Mattis said: “They have dispersed their aircraft, no doubt.

They have dispersed their aircraft in recent days.”