Remarks by Secretary Mattis at an Enhanced Honor Cordon Welcoming Denmark Defence Minister Frederiksen to the Pentagon

Secretary Of Defense James N. Mattis; Denmark Defence Minister Claus Hjort Frederikse


SECRETARY OF DEFENSE JAMES N. MATTIS:  Minister Hjort Frederiksen, Ambassador Lose, members of the delegation, welcome to you.  It's a pleasure, actually, to welcome you to the Pentagon.  I think we last saw each other in February at the -- at the NATO defense ministerial in Brussels.

And I think that we have a very proud history together.  It's always good, when people visit, to push back and think for a minute about the history that we share.  And it goes back, in terms of shared values and cooperation, to establishing relations between our two nations in 1801, which was quite some time ago.

And, ever since then, our nations have enjoyed the world's longest unbroken diplomatic relationship.  America does not forget the role that Denmark played in our own nation's history, when Colonel Hans Christian Febiger -- I don't know if I said that right.

But affectionately as we knew him as “Old Denmark” proved a capable commander in our nation's Revolutionary War and when Danish immigrants also bravely stepped forward as part of the Scandinavian Regiment, the 15th Wisconsin, during our Civil War.

Today, Denmark continues to be an economically strong NATO ally in defense of freedom.  Thank you for providing high-end critical capabilities to the Resolute Support mission in Afghanistan and for remaining one of the top contributors to the Defeat ISIS coalition.

Your nation also occupies a unique space on the global stage as the oldest kingdom in Europe and the only nation in the Arctic that is a member of both the EU and the NATO Alliance.  The U.S. places high value on Denmark's astute wisdom with regard to that important region, as well as the Baltic Sea region.

Your pledge to increase Denmark's international deployment by 50 percent by 2023 illustrates that the size of a nation is less important than its level of commitment to upholding international stability and the rule of law, even in dangerous circumstances.

Also in this regard, across NATO, we see nations increasing their commitment to their national defense and the alliance capabilities, as required by Article 3 of the treaty establishing NATO.  

Eight of 29 nations will meet or exceed their 2.0 gross domestic product -- 2 percent of gross domestic product Wales pledge this year.  Nine more have national plans in place to do so by the agreed date in 2024 or even sooner; 12 nations have yet to submit the plans to make this modest commitment to the best defense in the world, which weakens both the political resolution and the military capability to defend our democracies and our societies at a time of growing peril.

In closing, I wish you and your people a happy Constitution Day this June, in celebration of the introduction of democracy to your great nation.  Minister Frederiksen, you, your delegation and your ideas are most welcome here.  Thank you.  

And, if you'd like to say a few words with the press present, the floor is yours, Mr. Minister.

DEFENCE MINISTER CLAUS HJORT FREDERIKSEN:  Thank you very much.  It is great to be back in Washington to meet with you, Secretary of Defense, and representatives from the State Department and from Defense.  

I would like to thank you, Secretary Mattis, personally for your warm welcome and for the excellent discussions we've previously had, either in Copenhagen, Brussels or elsewhere.

Early in your tenure, you came to Copenhagen, and I'm very thankful for that.  It reflects your strong belief in the importance of alliances and partnerships.  However, it has, perhaps, a personal downside.  It needs -- it needs to be a very busy travel schedule for the secretary, which impresses me.  Being three years younger than you, you are clearly fit for this time.  (Laughter.)

Denmark and the USA has close friend -- are close friends and allies bound together by shared values, liberty and freedom.  We will stand up for these rights and principles and do so together.  

Being right here, before Memorial Day, I want to honor those who have paid the highest price in serving your nation.  Our men and women in uniform always praise the professionalism and sacrifice of their U.S. colleagues.  Allow me to do so today.  

During our meeting, I look forward to discuss how we can jointly develop our defense cooperation and how this can be -- and how this can enable the implementation of priorities in the new National Defense Agreement.

We will also discuss the security situation in the Baltic Sea region and the Arctic.  NATO and the transatlantic links is the cornerstone of our security.  We are therefore grateful for the continued engagement in Europe.  This is not something we take for granted.  

The United States can count on Denmark to take responsibility and engage.  We are committed to do our share regionally and internationally.  Thank you very much.

SEC. MATTIS:  Well, thank you, Mr. Minister, and you're right about friendship and the mutual respect that we share between our nations.  

Now, if the members of the press will excuse us, we'll get down to work.

Q:  Mr. Secretary, are you optimistic that talks between President Trump and Kim could still take place in the near future?

SEC. MATTIS:  I'm optimistic that the diplomats are working -- our diplomats are working very hard to make this happen, and -- as is our president.

(CROSSTALK)

Q:  Will the military ramp up exercises now that the summit's been canceled?

SEC. MATTIS:  Say that again?

Q:  Will the military ramp up its exercises on the peninsula?

SEC. MATTIS:  We're -- we're not changing anything right now.  It's steady as she goes.  The diplomats are in the lead and in charge, and we give them our best wishes to have a fruitful way forward.

Q:  Mr. Secretary -- 

(CROSSTALK)

Q:  -- the president has suggested that Denmark and other NATO allies should double their defense spending, up to 4 percent of the GDP.  Do you agree?

SEC. MATTIS:  Right now, the Wales pledge of 2 percent GDP is -- we consider a very -- a very achievable percentage to pay for the best defense in the world that NATO has proven to be that.  We went all the way through the Cold War and prevented war.

And so we strongly believe, as the minister just indicated, that a cornerstone of our defense, too, here in America, is the same as what Denmark's is, and that is NATO and the Transatlantic Alliance.  

Thank you very much.  We're going to work on that alliance now.  Thank you.