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Remarks by Secretary Mattis and Defense Minister Han in Seoul, Republic of Korea


First and foremost, I would like to express my sincere gratitude to Secretary Mattis and his delegation for crossing the Pacific Ocean to come all the way here to visit Republic of Korea Ministry of National Defense, despite his very busy schedule at the beginning of his tenure.

I believe that U.S. President Trump and ROK Acting President Hwang's phone call at the beginning of this week, and Secretary Mattis' decision to visit Republic of Korea as his first destination abroad in his position as secretary of defense, clearly shows the United States commitment to the defense of Republic of Korea and the ROK-U.S. alliance.

North Korea's Kim Jong-un, continues to blatantly threaten the international community. He has boasted enhanced nuclear and missile capabilities and has stated that ICBMs can be launched at any given time and place.

Faced with the current severe security situation, Secretary Mattis' visit to Korea and participation in ROK-U.S. Defense Ministerial Meeting not only represents the ROK-U.S. alliance is resolute well to respond to the North Korea's nuclear and missile threats, but also communicates the strongest warning to North Korea.

I have no doubts that today's meeting will be an opportunity to reaffirm the strength of the alliance and the close cooperative relationship between the ROK Ministry of National Defense and U.S. Department of Defense will serve as the foundation upon which ROK-U.S. strategic partnership continues to develop.

In today's meeting we will discuss important issues to -- to the alliance, such as the following, security environments on the Korean Peninsula and developing the firm ROK-U.S. alliance, U.S.'s commitment to defense of Republic of Korea and strengthening the implementation capabilities of extended deterrents and deployments of THAAD in USFK.

We already had a conversation on the phone at the beginning of this week. Yesterday evening, we shared a meal together and now we are here to work together in a meeting. We're able to form a close relationship in such a short period of time. I believe this was possible because we both served as an active duty serviceman for 40-plus years and there is the ROK-U.S. alliance, a strong thread that binds us together.

As Secretary Mattis has said during his confirmation hearing, nations with strong allies thrive and those without wither. As Republic of Korea and United States have stood side-by-side for the last 60 years on the bedrock of shared values and trust, today will mark yet another day our alliance reaffirms its firm will and strength to remain unwavering against all challenges and adversaries.

Thank you.

SECRETARY OF DEFENSE JIM MATTIS: Well, good morning everyone. And thank you, Minister Han, for your warm welcome.

I first visited your valiant country as a 21-year-old lieutenant many years ago and it's good to be back. I appreciate you hosting me and sharing your assessments of the situation we face today.

As you noted, Minister Han, this is my first overseas trip as secretary of defense and I'm here to underscore America's priority commitment to our bilateral alliance and to make clear the administration's full commitment to the United Nations mission in defense of your democracy.

I look forward to working closely together with you and sharing our perspectives is essential to strengthening our already strong teamwork. Yesterday and this morning, I met with acting President Hwang, National Security Adviser Kim and Foreign Minister Yun. From those meetings, I gained a deeper sense of the trusted bonds between our countries built on shared interests and values.

The United States stands by its commitments and we stand with our ally, the South Korean people. Our alliance is a testament to mutual commitment and respect and it is a linchpin of peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region.

In cooperation with all our allies and partners, the United States seeks to ensure a peaceful, secure and free Asia-Pacific region. Our warm, respectful and mutual supporting relationship shows what democracies can accomplish when guided by a spirit of collaboration in defense of peace and prosperity.

North Korea continues to launch missiles, develop its nuclear weapons program and engage in threatening rhetoric and behavior. We stand with our peace-loving Republic of Korea ally to maintain stability on the peninsula and in the region. America's commitments to defending our allies and to upholding our extended deterrence guarantees remain ironclad. Any attack on the United States or on our allies will be defeated and any use of nuclear weapons would be met with the response that would be effective and overwhelming.

Due to North Korea's threatening rhetoric and destabilizing behavior, we are taking defensive steps, like deploying the highly effective THAAD antimissile unit to the Republic of Korea, to protect its people and our troops that stand beside our ally. We are also committed to expanding trilateral venues of cooperation with Japan where the mutual defense of our nations is best served through teamwork.

Today, Minister Han and I will discuss other ways to make certain our militaries are always ready to protect this republic.

Minister Han, it is a privilege to meet with you today. I look forward to our partnership as we work to find common ground for deeper collaboration and to strengthen our strategic alliance. Together, and with a spirit of collaboration, I'm confident we'll continue to provide for the security and prosperity of our nations and the region.

(UNTRANSLATED) and thank you.