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Media Availability with Secretary Mattis en route to Thailand

Press Operations

Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis
Oct. 25, 2017
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(UNKNOWN):  (Off mic)

SECRETARY OF DEFENSE JIM MATTIS:  (Off mic) Again, this event I was at is called the A-D-D-M; A-D-M-M-Plus, where the ASEAN defense ministers have additional defense ministers in -- (inaudible) -- Australia, India, United States for example, Korea, Japan.  And I'll just tell you, Sec Def Lorenzana with everything he has going on to take the brunt of something like this, this much international flavor at the same time -- you know, things are never done when they say they're done.  In Marawi for example, a lot of things still going on.  I thought he just did a very good job.

You know, the message I came here with is that we remain unambiguously committed to supporting ASEAN centrality and of course the rules-based international system, which has to do with -- (inaudible) -- of the sea, you know, freedom of navigation, all the things all of you have covered for years out here, and emphasizing respect for our shared value of sovereignty.

It gave us an opportunity for the Indo-Pacific nations to address shared concerns.  And of course you know about their September 7th statement about DPRK's provocation with their ballistic missiles and nuclear weapons program, and I think that what was clearly highlighted there was how all the nations look at DPRK's actions as outlaw actions outside the law, threatening regional peace.

And I carried the message that the more we do together today, the greater the chance for enduring peace in the future.  And that's really what -- what it is all about, to keep DPRK efforts firmly in the diplomatic lane for resolution.

I think, too, the participating nations addressed the growing threat of terrorism for obvious reasons.  We're meeting in a country that's just been through a very difficult time, late May when Marawi fell to terrorists.

But also we talked about maritime security in a region of many belts and many roads.

I think working together in this kind of a context of contributing to a free and open Indo-Pacific region, accelerating economic development for all nations, (inaudible) -- really looking forward to Singapore taking over the chairmanship. They’re a good nation that thinks strategically, got some serious thinkers there about how we resolve things with -- (inaudible).

Now on our way to Thailand.  I am honored to lead the U.S. presidential delegation and to pay our respects and express our condolences on behalf of the American people by attending the cremation rites for his majesty, the late king.

You know, he was born in Massachusetts, his father was a medical student and met with President Eisenhower, this is about how far back this goes.  Then LBJ -- (inaudible) -- Congress.  And I would just tell you that he's a champion of the Thai people, I think he was admired by everyone internationally with who he came in contact.  He was a very dignified leader.

So understandably people revere him to this day, through the cremation day.  And the -- a proponent of the long and friendly Thai-U.S. relationship.  A very difficult time, I think, for the Thai people.

I've been to Thailand before in my younger days; first here back in 1973, I believe it was.  Somewhere back then.  And everywhere you went, there were shrines to the royal family, every restaurant, every store and all.  The king was well-known for his compassion.  Most of the Thai people have known no other king.

So we're honored to be going there to do this -- (inaudible) – so questions coming out of -- out of the Philippines, are on our way to -- to Thailand.

Q:  Could you look ahead a little bit- talk to your visit in Korea? 

SEC. MATTIS:  No, I'm really not ready to.  You know the theme that will be there- the tension on the peninsula, and the fact that we stand fast with our allies.  (inaudible) -- discussion while I’m there.

Q:  Will you be discussing the -- (inaudible)?

SEC. MATTIS:  Yeah, I'm really not ready to -- (inaudible).  I'll try and meet with you all when I come out of Thailand, when I have time to be real focused in my remarks here.

But it's -- you know, it's our ROK-U.S. alliance thought-leading bilateral forum.  And this is taking just constant collaboration, coordination and integration -- (inaudible).

Q:  Can I ask you, though, in the context of the meetings you had in the Philippines, did you get any sense with the defense ministers you spoke to kind of a fatalistic feeling that the North Koreans will not be persuaded to change their course? 

SEC. MATTIS:  I had more of a sense that they -- that everyone was --understands the very serious -- (inaudible).  But I did not pick up fatalist.  A number of people talked about hoping diplomatic efforts will work, that sanctions will cause them to change course.

Q:  I mean, on this -- on that same point, I mean --

SEC. MATTIS:  I'm not ready to talk much about Korea- I’m just going to tell you...

Q:  No, on that same point at ASEAN, you know, in the statement, they talked about a peaceful resolution of the crisis.

SEC. MATTIS:  Sure.

Q:  But, you know, this is a gathering of defense ministers, whose job it is to prepare for, you know, alternatives to, the alternatives on our end.

SEC. MATTIS:  We've been blunt out of Washington, D.C., with Secretary Tillerson being sent to Beijing by the president and all.  We are out for a peaceful resolution.

Do we have military options in defense if we're attacked, our allies are attacked?  Of course we do.  But everyone is out for a peaceful resolution.

Q:  And did you sense --

SEC. MATTIS:  Not rushing to war.

Q:  Did you sense anxiety among the ASEAN members about, you know, whether or not the rhetoric out of Washington might suggest imminent threats?

SEC. MATTIS:  No.

Q:  Thank you for your time with us.  (Inaudible).

SEC. MATTIS:  It's a great question, Katrina.  I -- I just tell you, I don't speculate, I need to see what kind of statements come out and see what kind of policies come out of this.  Right now, I'm taking a wait and see to see how it goes, see what I can pick up.  So when we -- go ahead.

Q:  On China -- (Off mic).

SEC. MATTIS:  We've been very clear that we're going to steam, sail, fly in international airspace, international waters.  And I think everyone in (inaudible) is dependent on the rules-based architecture that's allowed them to economically port the way they have over the last decade.  And the strongest argument for freedom of navigation is that very reality.

So I think that the economic realities are the statements of support for freedom of navigation.  We've been very clearly of our view of militarization -- (inaudible).

Q:  (inaudible) -- the public statement that came out of the trilateral with Korea and Japan mentioned, you know, kind of new levels, potentially, of intel-sharing, more fly- joint multiple flyovers (inaudible).  Is there anything you can do to stand on record about what you guys discussed and maybe agreed to?

SEC. MATTIS:  No, that's pretty much what we agreed to.  Now we've got to do the -- roll up our sleeves and do the pragmatic planning and coordination and putting that side together, and all.

Q:  You want to do just off the record?

SEC. MATTIS:  Yeah, I don't have a whole lot of time.  I've got (to shift over here and there's some other things I've got brewing right now back in Washington.

Q:  Can I do one more sir?  Two part question.  Do you think that China and Russia were put in the Philippines, or the Philippines (inaudible) what's the significance (inaudible)?

(OFF-MIC)

SEC. MATTIS:  I don't attach very much significance, Janet.  I know some trucks are done being dropped off to help the country that's fighting terrorists right now.  I don't, you know, put a lot of significance to it.  It's a sovereign decision by the Philippines.  

At the same time, in my private meeting -- or my bilateral meeting, not private -- bilateral meeting with President Duterte -- it was a very straightforward, even warm meeting, that talked about the depth of our mil-to-mil relationship and our collaboration together against a common enemy.  So it's really not a big issue, I don't think, that other nations are also coming to their help (inaudible).