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Remarks By Secretary Mattis at an Enhanced Honor Cordon Welcoming Her Excellency Ank Bijleveld, Minister of Defence of the Netherlands, to the Pentagon

SECRETARY OF DEFENSE JAMES N. MATTIS:  Minister Bijleveld -- I hope I said it -- your name right, Ma'am --  Bijleveld.

MINISTER ANK BIJLEVELD:  It's difficult, yeah.

SEC. MATTIS:  Ambassador Schuwer, it's good to see you again, Excellency...


SEC. MATTIS:  ...and members of the delegation.  You're most welcome here.  Your ideas are welcome here.  Our history of -- and tradition of working together is something we don't forget in this building.  It's also something we do not take for granted, so you're welcome, and thank you for coming.

I would just say, on your first official visit here to the Pentagon, it's good to see you again.  I think we first met up in, if I remember right, Finland.

MIN. BIJLEVELD:  Yeah, in Helsinki, yeah.

SEC. MATTIS:  And then we were, of course, at the ministerial in Brussels in February.


SEC. MATTIS:  And we talked in Rome on the D-ISIS effort.


SEC. MATTIS:  But it's a reminder that we don't have to search for common ground.  The common ground is there.  It's up to us to act on it. 

I think it's fitting we meet today.  On this date in 1713, for the Americans here -- you don't have to -- I don't have to tell your delegation the main Treaty of Utrecht was signed, the forerunner to the idea of collective security, that today is at the heart of the NATO alliance.  But I like these words that the signers said, that they sought, quote, "a faithful neighborhood on all sides, and secure cultivating of peace and friendship."  And I think today NATO is our faithful neighborhood on both sides of the Atlantic, cultivating peace through strength, and unwavering trans-Atlantic unity.

Netherlands has been a pillar of that unity from the very beginning.  We note your enhanced Forward Presence mission in Lithuania.  If I remember right, I was up in the forest.  I think you had about 300...


SEC. MATTIS:  ...of your young soldiers up there, in a very cohesive team, and a determined...


SEC. MATTIS:   ...battlegroup commander with American and many other nations...


SEC. MATTIS:  ...there in the woods.  And all -- all integrated with, in that case, the Lithuanian military.  


SEC. MATTIS:  It was a remarkable demonstration of NATO's unity on the ground. 

I think you've also demonstrated this unity by standing in solidarity with the United Kingdom in expelling Russian Federation's diplomats for something that none of us can tolerate, as what happened in Salisbury.  That attempted murder, via the first chemical weapons attack in Europe since World War II is yet another affront to our shared values, which include respect for sovereignty, for freedom, and for the dignity of human life, something you spoke eloquently about, I might remember, in -- in Rome, when we first...


SEC. MATTIS:  ...were discussing how we carry out a different campaign. 

SEC. MATTIS:  But the values came through, loud and clear again.  We share these values, the Netherlands and the United States, and as you wrote in your Defense White Paper, quote, "We protect what we value."

To be effective in this requires fair burden sharing, as we have discussed, and greater defense investment. I applaud the increased defense spending, and your role in that, Madame Minister, it's a strong step forward.  

Effectiveness here also requires increasing military mobility and NATO cooperation with the E.U., and I look forward to your insights on this, along the lines of what we discussed...


SEC. MATTIS: the ministerial when you and I last spoke.


SEC. MATTIS:  But today, 300 years after the Treaty of Utrecht, we know ours is a world that's awash with change, and we also know some things remain, and the bond between our peoples is one of those that remains.  So Madam Minister, thank you for coming, and I'll give you a few moments to say anything you wish with press present.

MIN. BIJLEVELD:  Thank you very much.  Jim, it's a great pleasure to be here today, perhaps a bit more difficult day, and we've talked about it.  But the United States is one of our most important partners.  The relationships between our countries go back many years, and remains strong today, as you already mentioned.  We share in these values, and our forces serve shoulder to shoulder all over the world, from Afghanistan and Iraq to the Baltic states and the Caribbean.  That's also good to mention for our -- for our kingdom.

And I look forward to the constructive discussions today, which will cover topics such as burden sharing, European defense cooperation, military mobility -- I will tell something about it, and our missions and operations abroad.  

And I was told that you like historical facts, so we also looked -- looked at it.  As you might know, we announced in our white paper, the first use of new submarines for the Royal Netherlands Navy, manned submarines.  And I do not know whether this a coincidence, but today, exactly 118 years ago on April 11, 1900, the U.S. Navy acquired the first modern commissioned submarine called USS Holland.  And I would like you to believe that the submarine was named after Holland, or the Netherlands. (Laughter.)

But the former name of the Netherlands, as you -- as you know.  But I have to be -- in all -- tell you in all honesty, the vessel was built under the supervision of John Philip Holland, so the vessel was named after the man who designed the vessel, and our -- our details.  But it is nice to know today.

I look forward to our discussion, and -- and to meet you again.

SEC. MATTIS:  And again, to you and the members of your delegation, Excellency, welcome.  And if the ladies and gentlemen of the press will excuse us, we'll get down to work.  Thank you very much.

Q:  Secretary, have you seen enough evidence that -- to blame the Assad regime for this most recent chemical attack?  Have you seen evidence confident to make that assumption?

SEC. MATTIS:  We're still assessing the -- the intelligence ourselves, and our allies.  We're still working on this.

Q:  Is the U.S. military ready right now to conduct a counter -- a retaliatory strike, if ordered?

SEC. MATTIS:  We stand ready to provide military options if they're appropriate, as the President determines.  But thank you very much, ladies and gentlemen.

Q:  Mr. Secretary, are you concerned about telegraphing our -- our military moves in Syria?

SEC. MATTIS:  Thank you very much, ladies and gentlemen.

STAFF:  That's it, folks.  Let's...