WASHINGTON, Oct. 23, 2017 —
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and his ten counterparts from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations’ Defense Ministers Meeting-Plus met today at the former Clark Air Base, the Philippines, to discuss mutual security challenges and their strong multilateral defense cooperation, chief Pentagon spokesperson Dana W. White said in a statement.
The defense ministers exchanged views on regional security, and Mattis emphasized the need for continued cooperation in the international community to apply greater diplomatic and economic pressure on North Korea to fully implement all U.N. Security Council resolutions, White said.
Participants at the meeting also emphasized the importance of continued ASEAN unity to address shared security challenges facing Southeast Asia and the broader Asia-Indo-Pacific region, she said.
The secretary and his counterparts discussed the need to increase cooperation on countering violent extremism to stem the threat posed by groups such as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, and they addressed the threat posed by returning foreign fighters.
Mattis expressed his appreciation for the broad range of U.S.-ASEAN security cooperation and encouraged increased operational cooperation on common maritime security challenges, White said.
The secretary emphasized that the nations seek to increase the scope and complexity of exercises, and that the United States is working with like-minded partners to help build maritime security capacity in the region, she said.
Mattis offered continued cooperation in maritime domain awareness and information sharing to address common threats to regional security, White said.
Trilateral Defense Ministerial
Mattis also met with his counterparts from Japan and South Korea for the ninth Trilateral Defense Ministerial meeting in the Philippines to discuss North Korea, regional security and deepening security cooperation, according to a joint press conference today.
The three ministers strongly condemned North Korea’s ongoing provocative actions, according to a press statement.
The ministers affirmed that North Korea’s two recent missile launches -- which overflew Japan -- and its Sept. 3, nuclear test constitute an unprecedented and grave threat to their countries, and to the rest of the world, the statement said.
The ministers also resolved to strengthen international coordination to ensure the fast and full implementation of relevant U.N. Security Council Resolutions, including Resolution 2375, in which the Security Council on Sept. 11 unanimously adopted a new sanctions resolution against North Korea as a response to its sixth nuclear test on Sept. 3.
Stop Provocative Actions
The ministers called on North Korea to abandon its unlawful nuclear and ballistic missile programs in a complete, verifiable and irreversible manner; to cease more provocative actions that increase tensions in the region; and to abide by international obligations and commitments, according to the statement.
The statement said the ministers lauded efforts to broaden information sharing on North Korea’s nuclear and missile threats and enhance response capabilities -- including the use of multiple combined flight-training missions with U.S. bomber aircraft. They also committed to continue missile warning and anti-submarine warfare exercises, and discussed other regional security issues, including the importance of maritime security.
The three ministers reaffirmed that freedom of navigation and overflight must be ensured, and that all disputes should be resolved in a peaceful manner in accordance with the universally recognized principles of international law.
ICBM Threat From North Korea
The three ministers recognized that the United States, South Korea and Japan face common security challenges in the Asia-Pacific region, and declared that North Korea’s development of nuclear and ballistic missile capabilities -- including its intercontinental ballistic missile -- threatens the security and prosperity of the three nations, according to the statement.
They also reaffirmed they are committed to enhancing defense cooperation and to maintaining a rules-based order, the statement said. The ministers pledged to take necessary steps to bolster their ability to improve information sharing and strengthen responses to North Korean threats.
The ministers also pledged to actively cooperate to support diplomatic-led efforts to resolve the North Korean nuclear issue through maximum pressure on that nation, according to the statement.
The ministers committed to continue efforts to backstop the international community’s efforts to curb North Korea’s weapons of mass destruction programs and their means of delivery, the statement said.
And, according to the press statement, the ministers decided to continue consultations on security issues and affirmed their strong commitment to promote security cooperation among the three countries to contribute to peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region and around the world.
Japanese Defense Minister
Mattis also met with Japanese Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera on the sidelines of the ASEAN Defense Ministerial Meeting-Plus to discuss regional and global security issues, White said.
Mattis and Onodera reaffirmed that the U.S.-Japan alliance is the cornerstone of peace, prosperity and freedom in the Asia-Pacific region, she said.
The defense leaders both condemned in the strongest terms North Korea's recurring provocations and development of nuclear and ballistic missile capabilities, which pose an increasing threat to regional peace and security, White said. They resolved to continue bolstering bilateral and trilateral security cooperation with South Korea to deter and respond to threats posed by the Kim Jong Un regime.
Mattis reaffirmed that Article 5 of the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty applies to the Senkaku Islands and that the United States will continue to oppose any unilateral action that seeks to undermine Japan's administration of these islands, she said.
Both Mattis and Onodera expressed serious concern about the situation in the South China Sea and reaffirmed their opposition to unilateral coercive actions by claimants, including the reclamation and militarization of disputed features, which alter the status quo and increase tensions, White said.
The defense leaders also confirmed that the United States and Japan will continue to cooperate closely to provide capacity-building assistance to Southeast Asian partners. They affirmed that the U.S.-Japan alliance is indivisible and agreed that further efforts to strengthen the alliance will contribute to peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region and around the world.
South Korean Defense Minister
Mattis also met with South Korea’s Defense Minister Song Young-moo on the sidelines of the ASEAN Defense Ministerial Meeting-Plus, to discuss regional and global security issues, including the threat posed by North Korea, White said in a statement.
Mattis and the South Korean minister reaffirmed that the U.S.-South Korea alliance is the linchpin of peace and security in the Asia-Pacific region, White said. They also agreed to continue discussions in Seoul at the 49th U.S.-South Korea Security Consultative Committee, scheduled for Oct. 28.
(Follow Terri Moon Cronk on Twitter: @MoonCronkDOD)