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Secretary Mattis Enhanced Honor Cordon Welcoming Thailand's Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defence General Prawit Wongsuwan

April 23, 2018
Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis; Thailand Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defence Wongsuwan

SECRETARY OF DEFENSE JIM MATTIS:  Well Deputy Prime Minister Prawit, members of the delegation, welcome.  And thank you for paying respects to our -- at our Tomb of the Unknown at Arlington Cemetery earlier today.

Minister, we last met in October, prior to the royal cremation ceremony for your late King, a King revered by his people and respected worldwide for his wise leadership.  As all of us here at this table know, the bond between our two nations goes back centuries.

And today, we welcome America's oldest Pacific ally, first established diplomatic relations in 1818, and we celebrate the 200th Anniversary of our friendship this year.  So great was this friendship that just before the American Civil War, the King of Saim offered our President the use of your national animal, the elephant.

Though President Lincoln declined the offer, he recognized the gesture from his great and good friend, the King of Siam.  Nearly a century later in World War II, this friendship was again evident when America refused to accept the declaration of war from your nation.

Knowing full well it came from an occupying foreign power.  And we will never accept a foreign voice trying to speak or to assume authority over the Thai people.  Today, America recognizes Thailand as an essential country for the stability of the region.

The U.S. Thai alliance is vital to maintaining stability, and today we work together to increase regional security contributions and interoperability between our forces.  From our 1833 Treaty of Amity and Commerce, to last year's U.S. Thailand defense strategic talks, our nations have long stood for a free and open Indo-Pacific.

This position is also endorsed by ASEAN, an international organization central to a stable Indo-Pacific region.  Other countries may practice predatory economics in the Indo-Pacific, but we refuse to lose sight of our long friendship.

We hold firm to the belief that no nation should be a tribute state, that all states deserve to be free and independent.  As we look forward to the next 200 years, I am confident that the future for the Thai people will be positive as they regain their democratic footing and as your military retains its proud role as defender of the Kingdom.  

Deputy Prime Minister Prawit, thank you again for coming on this, your first but hopefully not your last visit to the Pentagon.  If you'd like to say a few words in front of the media.

MINISTER PRAWIT WONGSUWAN (THROUGH TRANSLATOR):  Secretary Mattis, it is my most (inaudible).  This is the third time that we have met with each other after our first meeting in (inaudible) as a representative of the United States to attend the royal cremation ceremony of His Majesty, the late King Bhumibol in October of last year.

I would like to express my deep appreciation for the warm welcome and kind hospitality by the Department of Defense.  It is my sincere honor as I (inaudible).  This is my very first time that I have an opportunity to visit the Pentagon.

And also it is my most humble honor and privilege to have an opportunity to lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at the National Cemetery, remember the fallen veterans and to honor those who served and sacrificed their lives in the war.

We have enjoyed 200 years of the U.S. Thai friendship this year, and we think it is with that, His Majesty King Maha Vajiralongkorn has graciously presided over the great and good friends, to celebrate our longstanding relationship on the 20th of March this year.

I would like to express my sincere appreciation and deep gratitude for all your kind words in regards to the longstanding relationship between the two countries, which has been enjoying close friendship and cooperation for 200 years.

It will definitely last for another 200 years, as you have mentioned.  And once again, please accept my sincere appreciation for your warm welcome and hospitality today.

SEC. MATTIS:  Thank you very much Deputy Prime Minister.  And ladies and gentlemen, if you'll excuse us, we'll get down to work here.  Thank you for coming up.

Q:  Mr. Secretary, over the weekend Kim Jong-Un said he will be suspending missile tests and scrapping the nuclear test sites.  Do you believe that's real progress and are those empty words?

SEC. MATTIS:  Right now, I think there's a lot of reasons for optimism that the negotiations will be fruitful and we'll see.

Q:  Mr. Secretary, the French President over the weekend said if you pull out of Syria too early, it will hand the country over to the Iranians.  Do you agree?

SEC. MATTIS:  Right now, working with nearly 70 nations, we continue to campaign against ISIS.  And that right now is ongoing in Syria, as well.  And we continue to maintain the defeat ISIS coalition.  Thank you very much, everybody.