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Defense Secretary Stresses Regional Security at ASEAN Meeting

By Terri Moon Cronk DoD News, Defense Media Activity

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WASHINGTON, Oct. 25, 2017 — Defense Secretary Jim Mattis met on the sidelines with key leaders from the Asia-Indo-Pacific region to discuss security issues while attending the Association of Southeast Asian Nations’ Defense Ministers’ Meeting-Plus in Clark, the Philippines, chief Pentagon spokesperson Dana W. White said in statements following the meetings.

Defense Secretary Mattis attends informal meeting with Asia-Pacific allies.
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis speaks during an informal meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Defense Ministers in Clark, the Philippines, Oct. 23, 2017. DoD photo by Army Sgt. Amber I. Smith
Defense Secretary Mattis attends informal meeting with Asia-Pacific allies. Informal Meeting
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis speaks during an informal meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Defense Ministers in Clark, the Philippines, Oct. 23, 2017. DoD photo by Army Sgt. Amber I. Smith

The secretary individually met with Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and Malaysian Defense Minister Hishammuddin Tun Hussein, White said.

In his Oct. 24 meeting with Duterte, Mattis discussed the strength of the U.S.-Philippines relationship and reaffirmed the United States’ ironclad commitment to the alliance.

Mattis also reasserted the United States’ resolve to stand by its longtime ally in the Philippines’ fight against the spread of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria in Southeast Asia. He offered his condolences for the sacrifices and heavy price that Philippine security forces paid bringing the five-month conflict with ISIS to an end in the city of Marawi.

That success is attributed to members of the of the Philippines’ armed forces, who went to extraordinary lengths to safeguard the lives of innocent civilians caught in the conflict or held hostage by ISIS militants, White said.

Mattis and Duterte also shared their views on the importance of maintaining a free and open Asia-Indo-Pacific region built on the foundations of a shared rules-based international order.

Bilateral Training, Exercises

When the secretary met Oct. 24 with his Philippine counterpart, Lorenzana, the two leaders discussed the depth and breadth of the U.S.-Philippines relationship, including the enduring people-to-people ties between the two nations, White said.

The two also discussed the importance of strengthening defense capabilities through regular, bilateral training and exercises.

Mattis and Lorenzana also exchanged views on regional security and emphasized the need for continued ASEAN unity to uphold a rules-based international order, and a free and open Indo-Pacific region, White said.

Mattis and Lorenzana emphasized their commitment to cooperation in maritime domain awareness and information sharing to address common threats to regional security, she said.

The two defense secretaries discussed the importance of U.S.-Philippines cooperation to defeat violent extremism and terrorism posed from groups such as ISIS in addition to the threat posed by returning foreign fighters, White said.

Mattis congratulated Lorenzana on the Philippines’ recent counterterrorism successes and major progress in retaking Marawi from ISIS militants last week.

Freedom of Navigation

In his talks today with Malaysia’s Hishammuddin, the two leaders exchanged views on regional security and emphasized the need for continued ASEAN involvement in addressing shared security challenges facing Southeast Asia, White said. They also discussed the necessity of a free and open Indo-Asian Pacific region that safeguards freedom of navigation through a rules-based international order.

The two defense leaders agreed on the importance of close counter terrorism cooperation to stem the threat posed by groups such as ISIS, and to address the danger posed by returning foreign fighters from the Middle East, White said.

Mattis shared his appreciation for the broad range of U.S.-Malaysia security cooperation and praised Malaysia's valuable contributions to regional security, White said.

(Follow Terri Moon Cronk on Twitter: @MoonCronkDOD)