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Remarks By Secretary Mattis At An Enhanced Honor Cordon Welcoming Japan Minister Of Defense Itsunori Onodera To The Pentagon

April 20, 2018
Secretary Of Defense James N. Mattis; Japan Minister of Defense Itsunori Onodera

SECRETARY OF DEFENSE JAMES N. MATTIS:  Minister Onodera and Ambassador Sugiyama and the members of the delegation, I know you're coming directly from the airport, so thank you for the opportunity to meet today.  

Especially as we look at the cherry blossoms, there's still a few left on the tree. The eternal reminder of friendship through good times and bad between our countries.  And so thank you very much, and welcome.  This is our first meeting together in the Pentagon.  But honored to host you after the last meeting with October's ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations), Defense Minister on the Philippines.

And if we consider the strength and the depth of the Japan-U.S. alliance, the friendship between our people, we find the true distance between Tokyo and Washington is only the width of this table.  

And our alliance remains the cornerstone for peace and security throughout the Pacific region.  And Japan is -- remains a trusted partner, defending shared democratic values in a world where we have witnessed the DPRK pursuing nuclear weapons and the means to deliver them, their citizens kidnapped and more.

Together, we are carefully reviewing a possible new path to peace, and at the same time we remain vigilant.  We continue to fully implement the maximum pressure campaign, and I praise Japan's leadership, enforcing UN Security Council sanctions on the high seas.

Preventing ship-to-ship transfer of energy supplies.  Together, we are ensuring the UN Security Council's unanimous resolution sanctions, such trade are carried out.  Together, we believe the Japanese-U.S. alliance is essential at a time where great power competition has returned.

Together, we stand for a free and open Indopacific region, reinforced by the international rule of law.  And we oppose the use of predatory economics by those seeking to impose their will on others in the region.  Our alliance is stronger than ever.

And we consult to determine how we can do more to increase mutually beneficial cooperation.  Your nation's perspective is welcome and we look forward to our conversation today.  



I also want to note that Japan's Golden Week begins at the end of this month. And I wish you my best for a restful holiday, Mr. Minister.  The Golden Week also includes your Constitution Day, when the Japanese people reflect on the fruits of peaceful cooperation with all nations and the blessings of liberty throughout the land.

And we in the U.S. military salute our comrades in arms and the Japanese South Defense Forces, who stand to work to defend your people.  And today we will discuss how to enhance our military-to-military cooperation so those blessings of liberty can be passed intact to future generations of Japanese and Americans.

So Minister, thank you again for coming.  You're most welcome here, and the opportunity to say a few words in front of the press.

MINISTER OF DEFENSE ITSUNORI ONODERA (THROUGH TRANSLATOR):  Thank you very much Mr. Secretary for your hospitality, inviting me to the Pentagon
today.  I see you're very fit, very healthy, that's very good.  

And I guess this Defense Ministry meeting is a very good occasion when we had Prime Minister -- both Prime Ministers and Presidents had their summits meetings until yesterday.  So today, I will like to take this occasion that our defense agencies re-affirm and double check on what we can cooperate, after the vote of the summit meeting that we have.

I'd like to say that the nuclear and biological and chemical weapons and such weapons of mass destruction, as well as ballistic missiles, those threats are enormous ones towards the international community.  East Asia is confronting grave and imminent threat of North Korea's weapons of mass destruction and missile program.

Under our ironclad U.S.-Japan alliance, we must work synergistically in concert with the international community to make North Korea abandon all weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missile program in a complete, verifiable and irreversible manner.

And the abductee issue we -- we think it is a very important issue that we have to work on.  And I would like to thank you, Mr. Secretary, for noting that.  It's (inaudible).  And I would also like to note the missile and nuclear program that North Korea is working on, I think it is important that North Korea would abandon their short and missile -- short and middle range ballistic missiles, as well.

I think Japan and the United States have a common objective and policy that we must maintain our pressure until North Korea abandons those nuclear and missile programs, as well as they change this policy.  

I would also like to comment on the action taken by U.S.-led coalition in response to Syria.  Use of chemical weapons are extremely inhumane and Japan would never tolerate it.  Japan endorses the decision of the United States, United Kingdom and France, which was conducted under the resolve never to tolerate proliferation and use of chemical weapons.

Against this serious threat of weapons of mass destruction, Japan will stand together, work shoulder-to-shoulder with the United States, so that the peace and stability of this region and the world will maintain, and that Japan can play our role that we must play here.

And as you noted Mr. Secretary, the Golden Week will start this -- later this month in Japan.  And also you noted that we have a Constitution Day during that Golden Week.  But I would like to note that two days after that Constitution Day is my birthday, so in that sense that is a celebration.

(LAUGHTER)

SEC. MATTIS:  Happy Birthday.

MIN. ONODERA (THROUGH TRANSLATOR):  So I hope all of the people in Japan will celebrate my birthday, as well so that will be a celebration day. 

So I understand that it is Golden Week, but it's still very busy, as well as you -- for you, I know how busy you are, Mr. Secretary.

But, though it is Golden Week, I will be in my office, so if there's anything, please contact me 24/7.

SEC. MATTIS:  Thank you very much.  And Happy Birthday, Mr. Minister.

(LAUGHTER)

Well thank you ladies and gentlemen of the press.  And if you'll excuse us, we'll get down to work now.  Thank you.  

Q:  Secretary Mattis?  Do you think your message to Assad was ignored because weapons inspectors are still unable to get into Duma?  And there are reports of sites being cleaned, sanitized?  

And to the Japanese Defense Minister, are you worried that, if North Korea talks are successful, U.S. will decrease military cooperation with Japan?

SEC. MATTIS:  Well let me -- let me address Assad, should he ignore the international community, which is universally -- from the Pacific, as you just heard, to Brussels in Europe, from Riyadh to the western hemisphere.

There's been full support for that regrettable but necessary attack on his -- his research and engineering part of his weapons program, weapons of mass destruction.  He would be ill advised to ignore the international community's statement, and we stand ready to address anything in the future.

And let me also address your question to the guest here today.  We are not going to reduce our commitment to the bilateral relationship between Japan and the United States.  This is a mutually beneficial alliance between two democratic nations that trust each other.

Nothing is going to shake that.

MIN. ONODERA (THROUGH TRANSLATOR):  I would like to comment on the actions taken by the United States and coalition against Syria.  This is an action that was taken against weapons of mass destruction, and I think this gave a certain message towards North Korea, as well.

What is important here is that we will maintain our policy until -- the policy that we have until -- North Korea changes its policy for themselves.  

SEC. MATTIS:  Thank you very much, ladies and gentlemen.  We need to get to work, so thank you.