Acting Defense Secretary Patrick M. Shanahan said the United States is working to build international consensus on the way forward to deal with the Gulf of Oman where Iran attacked two oiler tankers.
Shanahan spoke prior to meeting with Portuguese Defense Minister Joao Titternigton Gomes Cravinho at the Pentagon. He said DOD is supporting efforts by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and John Bolton, national security advisor, to forge such a consensus.
"One of our roles is to set the conditions for diplomacy," Shanahan said. Part of that is the push to get information out about the incidents in the Gulf, he said.
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford is in close contact with Marine Corps Gen. Frank McKenzie, commander of U.S. Central Command, to ensure the command "has the resources and the support they need to conduct their mission," the acting secretary said.
The incidents in the Gulf of Oman involve Norwegian and Japanese ships, and Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Around 15% of the world's oil flows through the Strait of Hormuz. By definition, this is an international concern.
"We obviously need to make contingency plans should the situation deteriorate," Shanahan said. "We also need to broaden support for this international security incident."
The meeting is part of the semiannual review of the Portugal-United States relationship. Defense cooperation is one of the issues discussed in this review, as is bilateral and multilateral cooperation. The two men will also discuss the defeat-ISIS coalition.
Portugal is one of the United States oldest allies and is a charter member of NATO. U.S. forces are based at Lajes Field in the Azores — a key mid-Atlantic logistics hub. The base also provides aviation support, communications and weather services. "The Azores is a symbol of what we can do together in the future as we reinvent and repurpose the base," Cravinho said at the start of the Pentagon meeting.
According to the World Bank, Portugal spends roughly 1.7% of gross domestic product on defense. The nation is on track to make the NATO goal of 2% of GDP by 2024. The Portuguese are also active in operations, supporting nearly every U.S., NATO or U.N.-led peacekeeping effort since 1989. Portugal has service members deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan. They are also involved in exercises/operations in the Mediterranean, the Baltic Republics and in Africa.
Tying the countries together even more is the fact that 1.5 million Americans trace their lineage to Portugal.