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Remarks by Secretary Mattis at an Enhanced Honor Cordon Welcoming Portugal Minister of National Defense Azeredo Lopes to the Pentagon

Press Operations

Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis
Sept. 12, 2017
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SECRETARY OF DEFENSE JIM MATTIS:  Welcome, Mr. Minister.
 
        And Ambassador Fezas Vital, welcome Excellency, Ambassador  -- good to have our diplomats along-side us, I think, when we meet like this.
 
        To the military officers and members of the delegation, thank you -- thank you very much. 
 
        Minister, a pleasure to see you again.  We met I think the first time at my defense ministerial when I was in Brussels.
 
        PORTUGAL MINISTER OF NATIONAL DEFENSE JOSE ALBERTO AZEREDO LOPES:  Your first defense ministerial.
 
        SEC. MATTIS:  Exactly.  Yes, sir.
 
        But you and I, we inherit a very strong relationship, a very positive relationship.  Portugal and the United States enjoy actually a long history of cooperation and friendship since as far back as 1790, when we opened diplomatic relations.  It was our second-ever consular officer that we sent to Portugal in 1790.  And a year later, you recognized this upstart young country that had declared its independence. 
 
        In more recent times, of course, we've been together with NATO ever since the beginning, all the way through, in 1949.  We've stood together for over 68 years. 
 
        What does it mean to us?  It means that stand together and united against those who would do harm to our countries.  And we are two of the countries that share the belief that we are strongest inside an alliance of democracies, that we stand along-side each other. 
 
        I think when we heard here in the Pentagon of last month's loss of 15 innocent lives – you know, we just marked the anniversary of 9/11 yesterday here at the Pentagon with the president – but it's a reminder what happened next door to you in Spain, that we've got to stay together, and no country on its own can protect itself from this world.
 
        And so we need the continued cooperation that our two countries represent, and even to increase our commitment.  As the security situation changes, we must change with it.  I'm very interested to hear today when we have our discussion about your view of the southern flank.  And as we look towards NATO's defense of both the southern flank and its attention to its difficulties from the east, we've got to make certain we have a shared appreciation of that situation so that we're informing one another and keeping the Alliance together not just in meetings in Brussels, but with a mutual understanding of the situation that together we face.
 
        So I look forward to a very healthy discussion about how to strengthen our relationship.  I don't believe that relationships stay the same.  They either weaken or get stronger.  And we're dedicated to making this stronger relationship here.  That includes talking about the two percent in the Wales Pledge, of course.  And within the NATO alliance, continuing to carry out our responsibilities so the next generation, the younger people growing up, have the same freedoms that you and I enjoy today.
 
        So, Minister, Excellencies, members of the delegation, again welcome.  Thank you for the long trip to come here.  We appreciate it very much.  And it's a pleasure to welcome you to the Pentagon where you, your officers and your ideas are always welcome.
 
        If you'd like to say a few words with the press still in the room, Minister, the floor is yours.
 
        MIN. AZEREDO LOPES:  Thank you very much, Secretary Mattis.
 
        Good morning to you all and to your delegation.  Thank you very much for receiving me because, as you said in the beginning, we have a known common history.  We were I think the third country to recognize the United States, the first neutral.  Our reasons were not so good, as you can imagine.  But nevertheless, history has marked that we were on the front line recognizing this new and extraordinary country.
 
        But let me begin also by expressing my sorrow and -- and of the Portuguese government, because, and our solidarity, because of the loss of lives, and the loss and material damage in Houston caused by Hurricane Harvey, and more or less as we speak, still by Hurricane Irma in Florida.  And so this was the first thing that I wanted to say.
 
        As you said, Secretary Mattis, and very recently in Barcelona, you felt this again more and more near of our territory felt what can be this kind of trans-national violence, the blind violence.  And we can also say that we lost two Portuguese lives in Barcelona.  So we can feel more and more the impact of this kind of threat, and of course have said very consistently that we think that this is one of the major threats to our security, to our way of living, to our society. 
 
        And unfortunately -- most unfortunately, I arrived in the U.S. yesterday on 9/11 of September.  I still can remember very strongly what happened at this moment, what you suffered and the way you faced these kind of threats, and the defeat of the ones who attacked you.
 
        To tell you the truth, today I believe strongly the threats and even the -- the simple conception of defense is much different than it was before this tragic event.  And so we have confirmed this more and more.  We confirmed this in Iraq.  We mostly confirmed this in 2014 when suddenly we noticed that a most unknown organization Daesh was almost controlling two countries, and so this kind of threat in between state actors, non-state actors and even actors we cannot even clearly define them, is for sure one of the threats that we face, and we count, of course, on the leadership of the United States in this fight as we can see also in the anti-Daesh coalition.
 
        So, thank you very much, Secretary Mattis for this meeting.  As you said, and I strongly believe, Portugal and the United States share common values, share a common view of society.  Of course there are differences, it is what happens between friends.
 
I don't believe friends always agree on everything.  And I think that we can work together.  I think that we can improve what we do together.  We meet at a multilateral level with NATO, and other organizations, and we meet as we do now at a bilateral level.
 
        Thank you.
 
        SEC. MATTIS:  Well, thank you, Minister.
 
        And thank you, ladies and gentlemen of the press, for coming up.  Appreciate it.
 
        Q:  Mr. Secretary, are you confident that the new sanctions against North Korea at the U.N. will curb their missile and nuclear activities?
 
        SEC. MATTIS:  The United Nations Security Council spoke with one voice, again recognizing the global threat that DPRK, North Korea constitutes.  And these are the most severe sanctions yet laid on North Korea.  We'll see what choices the North Koreans make.
 
        Thank you very much, ladies and gentlemen.