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Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III Remarks Welcoming Norwegian Minister of Defense Odd Roger Enoksen to the Pentagon

SECRETARY OF DEFENSE LLOYD J. AUSTIN III: Minister Enoksen, it's great to meet with you again so soon after seeing you Brussels at the NATO Defense Ministerial. It's a pleasure to welcome you to the Pentagon. I know this is your first visit here but hopefully it's the first of many. 

Norway is one of our most valued and forward-leaning Allies. Our defense relationship is based on our shared values and our common commitment to NATO, which we see as the essential forum for consultation, decision-making, and action on transatlantic security issues. In a sense, Norway is the Alliance's eyes and ears in the High North. And that's boosted by your investment in advanced capabilities such as the P-8 maritime patrol aircraft, which will be delivered later this week. We're also grateful for you hosting rotational deployments of U.S. troops and for training and exercising in Arctic conditions, as well as for the pre-positioned equipment that you've hosted for many, many years. 

This cooperation has built exceptional levels of interoperability. And that serves us well when we join in security operations around the globe. You can see our partnership at work with the Norwegian frigate now deployed with the USS Harry Truman Carrier Strike Group, and with Norwegian F-35 fighters that exercised last month with our B-2 bombers, and also with the deepening cooperation between our special operations forces. 

And so I want to especially thank Norway for its contributions in Afghanistan. We will always be grateful to the brave Norwegian forces who operated the hospital at the Kabul Airport right up to the very end of our common military mission. And we are also deeply grateful for your help during the historic airlift of 124,000 people. That lifesaving mission would not have been possible without our Allies and partners, including Norwegian forces and military aircraft. 

And so, Mr. Minister, I'm looking forward to exploring ways to deepen our longstanding defense ties and to discussing security challenges in the High North, global security operations and our shared perspective on challenges from Russia. So thanks again for making the trip so early in your tenure. I'm sure that we're going to have a great discussion. 

NORWEGIAN MINISTER OF DEFENSE ODD ENOKSEN: Thank you. Thank you, Lloyd. And thank you for receiving me here in the Pentagon so soon. It really means a lot to me to meet you this early in my new capacity as defense minister. The U.S. is Norway's most important ally. We do not take you for granted. I look forward to develop our relationship even further. We have some serious topics to discuss today. You have mentioned many of them already. Norway follows developments in Russia closely, both in the east and in the north. Norway takes our responsibility in the High North very seriously. We are concerned about Russia's military capabilities in our neighborhood. We welcome the increased interests and activity in the High North from the U.S. and other Allies. I am also looking forward to discussing how we can work closer together towards the NATO Summit in Madrid next summer. 

Thank you, again, for seeing me today. You are welcome to visit Norway any time. I would be honored to take you up north and show you the Arctic and the northern part of Norway. So thank you. 

SEC. AUSTIN: Thank you very much.