WASHINGTON, Jan. 24, 2018 —
Defense Secretary James N. Mattis today said he wants to thank Vietnamese officials for their support on the North Korean issue.
“They have been supporting the United Nations sanctions at some cost to them,” he said to reporters traveling with him from Jakarta, Indonesia, to Hanoi, Vietnam.
The cost to Vietnam includes lost trade with North Korea, Mattis said, “so we appreciate the leadership on that leading by example and stepping up.”
The secretary said he wants to pay his respects to Vietnamese officials during his visit and “thank them for their support on the [North Korean] issue.”
‘Productive Dialogue’ in Vietnam
The United States and Vietnam are building a positive future together, Mattis said, adding that he looks forward to a productive dialogue that is a continuation of other U.S. visits and engagements. He is expected to discuss freedom of navigation in the South China Sea and the respect for international rule of law and national sovereignty.
Vietnam has one of the region’s fastest-growing economies, he said. “Freedom of navigation and access in the South China Sea will be critical to them economically, of course, and their security efforts,” he added.
In Hanoi today, Mattis toured the U.S. Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency with U.S. Ambassador to Vietnam Daniel J. Kritenbrink. The agency, which works to recover remains of missing service members, says more than 1,600 Americans remain unaccounted-for from the Vietnam War.
Indonesia Visit ‘Very Successful’
The secretary said his visit to Indonesia was “very successful visit in terms of shared understanding of the security issues in the region, from counterterrorism to freedom of navigation.”
While in Jakarta, Mattis met with Chief of Defense Marshal Hadi Tjahjanto. The secretary watched Indonesian special forces demonstrate their skills, including deploying from helicopters with dogs, intercepting a simulated suspect, smashing bricks with their heads, beheading snakes and drinking snake blood.
“You could imagine how much training went into each individual there, that they were able to do that,” Mattis said. “When you watch a force do that many things perfectly, you can imagine that they can also put the bigger issues together.”
Mattis said he flies Jan. 26 to Hawaii, where he is to meet with South Korean Defense Minister Song Young-moo.
(Follow Lisa Ferdinando on Twitter: @FerdinandoDoD)