North Korea on Mattis' agenda at ASEAN

US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis will discuss North Korea at upcoming ASEAN meetings. (AAP)

North Korea and provocations from Pyongyang will be discussed by US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis at the upcoming ASEAN talks.

US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis says he will talk with Asian allies about North Korea and the crisis caused by Pyongyang's "reckless" provocations, as he kicks off a week-long trip to the region to meet defence chiefs in the Philippines.

Mattis' trip to Asia, which starts on Monday and includes stops in Thailand and South Korea, comes just weeks before US President Donald Trump's first visit to Asia.

Trump has been locked in a war of words with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, calling him a "rocket man" on a suicide mission for openly pursuing a nuclear-tipped missile capable of hitting the United States.

Trump, in a speech last month at the United Nations, threatened to destroy North Korea if necessary to defend the United States and its allies. Kim has blasted Trump as "mentally deranged."

Mattis, who has emphasised diplomacy, is expected to meet both his Japanese and South Korean counterparts on Monday before meeting with all three of them together. He will attend a meeting from Monday to Wednesday of defence ministers from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, known as ASEAN, in the Philippines.

"I will talk with my counterparts, discussing the regional security crisis caused by the reckless DPRK North Korea provocations but also discuss our respect for shared values like sovereignty of the states, their territorial integrity, freedom of navigation through historically international waters, and fair and reciprocal trade," Mattis told reporters.

A US Navy destroyer sailed near islands claimed by China in the South China Sea last week, seeking to promote freedom of navigation. The manoeuvre prompted anger in Beijing.

Trump's trip next month will include a visit to China, which he has been pressuring to do more to rein in North Korea's missile and nuclear programs.

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