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Remarks by Secretary Mattis and Minister Song Young-moo at the Pentagon

Aug. 30, 2017

Ambassador, good to see you again.

Excellency and military officers, members of the delegation, welcome to the Pentagon.  You're most welcome here.

Thank you for traveling to Washington so soon after you were assigned to this post.  It's good to meet you in person after we had already spoken earlier this month.  It says a great deal of the priority that you and the president place on the relationship that you would come so soon.

The Republic of Korea-United States alliance has played an enduring role in regaining and maintaining South Korea's security since 1950.  And as President Moon remarked earlier this week, our alliance serves as the foundation of peace on the Korean peninsula.

Our countries share a commitment to democratic values and we work together to maintain a stable environment in which all the separate nations can prosper.  And for 64 years, our countries' mutual defense treaty has provided a rock solid basis for collaboration on defense measures, measures designed to keep that peace and to protect the South Korean people and to uphold vital American interests.

As we have seen, the threat to security in the northwest Pacific has become more severe.  And our nations' defense relationship thus becomes more important than ever in remaining the bedrock for international efforts to temper North Korea's aggressive actions.

The recent United Nations Security Council sanctions and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations’ (ASEAN) communique demonstrates the international community's resolve against North Korean actions.  Last evening's United Nations Security Council action shows the world is united in diplomatic efforts to stop North Korea and their reckless, intolerable behavior.  And here in Washington, we are keenly aware that South Korea is on the front lines and we are not complacent.

We note with confidence that you have pledged to increase defense spending under President Moon.  And in the interest of keeping our alliance fit for these times, we must continue to deepen our military relationship, building on the high level of trust that exists between our two nations.

As you say in Korean, Katchi Kapshida, or, "We go forward together."  And Minister Song, I look forward today to the usual transparent dialogue on how we will work together in what you've called for, an honest and candid conversation.

And again, Minister, Excellency, members of the delegation, welcome to the Pentagon.

DEFENSE MINISTER SONG YOUNG-MOO (THROUGH TRANSLATOR):  In the interest of saving time, I will keep my opening remarks brief.

First of all, I would like to extend my gratitude to you for hosting an excellent honor guard ceremony in front of the Pentagon in this good weather.

And because General Dunford to your right and you, yourself, are Marine generals, I -- I feel a sense of camaraderie towards you, as a naval officer.

And I would also like to take this opportunity to extend my deepest condolences for these people who were sacrificed as a result of Hurricane Harvey, as well as those service members who were sacrificed on the USS McCain.

SEC. MATTIS:  Thank you very much.

MIN. SONG (THROUGH TRANSLATOR):  Currently the world is paying close attention to the ROK-U.S. alliance because of North Korea's nuclear and ballistic missile threats.

I have no doubt in my mind that these issues will be resolved through the strength of the ROK-U.S. alliance, as we have done in the past.

And, as Secretary Mattis yourself has noted just now, after World War II, the alliance relationship that the -- Korea and United States share has been a key factor in terms of geo-economics, geopolitics, history, and militarily.  In these all fields and beyond, this is an alliance that is exemplary and firmer above all other alliances in the world.

And I have a -- I have a humble dream to have add another stone on top of this great alliance, to add to this brick and mortar.

And, starting now, I will engage in an honest conversation with you in this dialogue.  And, as a military man and as a Navy and Marine gentleman, I hope that today's conference will be fruitful.

SEC. MATTIS:  I'm sure it will be.  Thank you very much, Minister.  Again, welcome to all of you, and thank you, members of the press, very much for coming.

Q:  Secretary Mattis, you've often said that you seek a diplomatic solution with North Korea.  The president this morning tweeted that talking isn't the answer.  Are we out of diplomatic solutions for North Korea?


Q:  What additional diplomatic solutions could be taken?

And then, for Minister Song, what additional U.S. military support might South Korea need to be able to increase pressure on North Korea?

SEC. MATTIS:  Now, you're testing us, here, you know.  We bring you up here to take pictures.

But, no, the -- we're never out of diplomatic solutions.  We continue to work together, and the minister and I share a responsibility to provide for the protection of our nations, our populations and our interests, which is what we're here to discuss today -- and look for all the areas which we can collaborate within an already very strong collaboration. We always look for more.  We're never complacent.

SEC. MATTIS:  Okay.  Thank you.