Secretary of Defense James Mattis and US-Asia Pacific Relations

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Coordinator: Sarah Wang. For methodology, click here.

This resource will track statements, developments, visits and other interactions in U.S.-Asia Pacific relations given or undertaken by Secretary of Defense James Mattis.

To view quotations, debriefs of interactions with Asia Pacific leaders, and media sorted by topic, scroll down or use the links below.

Travel to Asia Pacific Countries Asia Pacific Leaders Asia Pacific Allies & Partners
China/Taiwan Human Rights & Democracy North Korea
South China Sea Southeast Asia/ASEAN Summits - APEC, East Asia (EAS), & US-ASEAN
Trade & Investment    

To view the stances of President Trump, Vice President Pence, Secretary of Defense Mattis, Secretary of Commerce Ross, and Secretary of State Tillerson on various issues in US-Asia Pacific relations, click here.

To view quotations, interviews, and policy documents given by and interactions with Asia Pacific leaders undertaken by President Trump, Vice President Pence, Secretary of Commerce Ross, and Secretary of State Tillerson use the links below.

President Donald J. Trump Vice President Mike Pence Secretary of Commerce Ross
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson    

To examine Asian reactions to ongoing developments in US-Asia relations and the US 2016 Presidential election, click here.

To explore previous quotations, views on Asia Pacific issues, and other connections to Asia from President Trump, Vice President Pence, and other candidates in the 2016 Presidential Election, click here.

Travel to Asia Pacific Countries

  •   Japan and South Korea in February 2017.
  • Singapore flag. Image: Freepik Australia flag. Image: Freepik Singapore and Australia in June 2017. 

Asia Pacific Leaders

  • On September 20, 2017, Secretary Mattis welcomed Australian Minister of Defence Marise Payne to the Pentagon to discuss the US-Australia alliance and its vital importance to maintaining security in the region. 
  • On September 5, 2017, Secretary Mattis spoke with Japanese Minister of Defense Itsunori Onodera to discuss the most recent nuclear test undertaken by North Korea. 
  • On September 5, 2017, Secretary Mattis spoke with South Korean Minister of National Defense Song Young-moo to discuss the US-South Korea alliance and the most recent nuclear test undertaken by North Korea. 
  • On August 31, 2017, Secretary Mattis spoke with Japanese Minister of Defense Itsunori Onodera over the phone to discuss North Korea's August 28 missile launch and express the United States' commitment to assist in Japan's defense. 
  • "The Republic of Korea-U.S. alliance has played an enduring role in regaining and maintaining South Korea’s security since 1950. 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 pacific nations can prosper. [...] Here in Washington we are keenly aware that South Korea is on the frontline and we cannot be complacent. We note with confidence that you have pledged to increase defense spending under President Moon. 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." [SourceSecretary Mattis Remarks at Bilateral Meeting with Republic of Korea Defense Minister Song Young-Moo. August 30, 2017
  • On April 5, 2017, Secretary Mattis met with Singapore's Minister of Defense Ng Eng Hen at the Pentagon where they discussed the continuing importance of the US-Singapore relationship. Read their joint statement here. 
  • On March 24, 2017, Secretary Mattis met with Indian National Security Adviser Ajit Kumar Doval and members of his delegation at the Department of Defense to reaffirm strong ties between the United States and India. 
  • On March 6, 2017, Secretary Mattis spoke with Japanese Minister of Defense Tomomi Inada over the phone regarding the recent launch of North Korea's ballistic missiles. Both reaffirmed their defense commitments to one another and to work closely with South Korea.  
  • On February 28, 2017, Secretary Mattis spoke with South Korean Minister of National Defense Han Min-Koo over the phone to discuss the bilateral alliance, including official land transfer in Seongju county, which will aid in the stationing of the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) weapons system. 
  • On February 18, 2017, Secretary Mattis met with Singaporean Minister of Defense Ng Eng Hen during the Munich Security Conference in Munich, Germany. They discussed the importance of peaceful resolutions to disputes in the South China Sea and cooperating on maritime security. 
  • On February 17, 2017, Secretary Mattis met with Australian Minister of Defence Marise Payne during the Counter-ISIS (C-ISIS) ministerial in Brussels, Belgium. They affirmed their commitment to the alliance between the United States and Australia. 
  • On February 9, 2017, Secretary Mattis called Indian Defense Minister Manohar Parrikar. During their phone call they agreed to continue to build up bilateral defense cooperation between the United States and India. 
  • In early February 2017, Secretary Mattis traveled to South Korea and Japan, where he met with South Korean Minister of National Defense Han Min-Koo, South Korean Minister of Foreign Affairs Yun Byung-Se, South Korean Acting President and Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn, South Korean National Security Advisor Kim Kwan-Jin, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, and Japanese Defense Minister Tomomi Inada
  • On January 24, 2017, Secretary Mattis spoke to his counterparts in Australia and New Zealand over the phone to reaffirm the strong ties that the United States has with both countries.

Asia Pacific Allies & Partners

  • On September 20, 2017, Secretary Mattis welcomed Australian Minister of Defence Marise Payne to the Pentagon to discuss the US-Australia alliance and its vital importance to maintaining security in the region. 
  • "Number one, those missiles [recently fired by North Korea] are not directly threatening any of us. Obviously, Japan's missile defenses are up, and their radars are operating. Ours are. And they are intentionally doing provocations that seem to press against the envelope for just how far can they push without going over some kind of a line in their minds that would make them vulnerable. So they aim for the middle of the Pacific Ocean, as you know, where at least we hope no ships are around, right? And the bottom line is that, when the missiles -- were they to be a threat, whether it be to U.S. territory, Guam, obviously Japan -- Japan's territory, that would elicit a different response from us." [Source] Media Availability With Secretary Mattis. September 18, 2017
  • On September 5, 2017, Secretary Mattis spoke with Japanese Minister of Defense Itsunori Onodera to discuss the most recent nuclear test undertaken by North Korea. 
  • On September 5, 2017, Secretary Mattis spoke with South Korean Minister of National Defense Song Young-moo to discuss the US-South Korea alliance and the most recent nuclear test undertaken by North Korea. 
  • On August 31, 2017, Secretary Mattis spoke with Japanese Minister of Defense Itsunori Onodera over the phone to discuss North Korea's August 28 missile launch and express the United States' commitment to assist in Japan's defense. 
  • "The Republic of Korea-U.S. alliance has played an enduring role in regaining and maintaining South Korea’s security since 1950. 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 pacific nations can prosper. [...] Here in Washington we are keenly aware that South Korea is on the frontline and we cannot be complacent. We note with confidence that you have pledged to increase defense spending under President Moon. 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." [Source] Secretary Mattis Remarks at Bilateral Meeting with Republic of Korea Defense Minister Song Young-Moo. August 30, 2017
  • "This right now is an exercise [Ulchi Freedom Guardian, which runs to Aug. 31, a joint U.S.-South Korean computer-simulated defensive exercise]  to make certain that we're ready to defend South Korea and our allies over there [...] because of the specific circumstance, we want it to be a command post-heavy, command post exercise." [Source] Exercise to Strengthen Efforts in Defense of South Korea, Mattis Says; Press Release. August 20, 2017
  • On July 6, 2017, Secretary Mattis spoke with South Korean Minister of Defense Han Min-koo over the phone to discuss North Korea's recent missile test and the United States' commitment to South Korea's security. 
  • On July 5, 2017, Secretary Mattis spoke with Japanese Minister of Defense Tomomi Inada over the phone to discuss North Korea's recent missile test and the United States' commitment to Japan's security. 
  • On June 7, 2017, Secretary Mattis met with Indonesian  Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs Luhut Pandjaitan at the Pentagon to discuss strengthening US-Indonesia maritime security cooperation in Southeast Asia, including combating ISIS. 
  • From June 2 to June 4, 2017, Secretary Mattis met with Asian leaders during and on the outskirts of the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore. During his visit Secretary Mattis met with Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, Australian Prime Minister Malcolm TurnbullIndonesian Minister of Defense Ryamizard RyacuduThai Deputy Defense Minister General Udomdej SitabutrSingaporean Minister of Defense Ng Eng Hen, members of the Association for Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) delegation, and Malaysian Minister of Defense Hishammuddin Tun Hussein
  • "The danger that we have faced over many, many years has built a sense of respect between our forces. I would remind you that after 9/11, when thousands of innocent people were murdered in America, including Australians, it was the Australians that were first to join us in the desert of Afghanistan in those uncertain days after 9/11, and we remain grateful for Australia’s alliance with us. Today, we still stand together in that fight, and certainly, our sympathies, our respects are with the people of London; of Marawi, Philippines; of Kabul, Afghanistan; of Cairo, Egypt – the list goes on – Jakarta. And we stand together. We do not allow ourselves to be intimidated at all. Australia, as always, punching above its weight in defense of our values and freedom, and these are values and freedoms that we intend to pass on to the next generation intact, and we are committed again today to assessing how we’re going to work together to do so. I would add that your 2016 defense white paper, we have reviewed it in Washington and it’s a model for other nations coming to grips with today’s security challenges, and I am confident that it’s a blueprint for keeping the Australian forces at the top of their game. We believe that our Australian-American partnership is a foundation for stability and peace not only in this region, but more broadly, and we are going to ensure between our forces that our diplomats’ voices are always backed up by skillful, by ethical, and by fierce force of arms. [Source] Press Briefing following the Australia-US Ministerial Consultations (AUSMIN). June 5, 2017
  • On June 5, 2017, Secretary Mattis, along with Secretary Tillerson, attended the annual Australia-US Ministerial Consultations (AUSMIN) in Sydney, Australia with Minister for Foreign Affairs Julie Bishop and Minister for Defence Marise Payne. During their opening remarks and press availability they all affirmed the importance of the US-Australia relationship to maintaining peace and security in the Asia Pacific at large. 
  • On June 3, 2017, Secretary Mattis met with leaders throughout Asia and gave remarks at the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore. 
  • "This year marks, ladies and gentlemen, the 50th anniversary of the birth of ASEAN and the 40th anniversary of relations between ASEAN and the United States.  In America, we are proud of our four decades of working together, and we believe that our best days are ahead. The future of ASEAN is bright, and that is good for all Pacific nations.  And here I note Indonesian President Widodo's statement at the 2016 East Asia Summit when he said ASEAN -- he said, 'ASEAN must protect our home and ensure sustainable peace and stability.  Hence, we need a strong and comprehensive regional security architecture that could advance ASEAN's centrality and more effectively contribute to security and regional stability.'" [SourceRemarks at the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore. June 3, 2017
  • "We are exploring new ways to address new challenges as well, from maritime security to the growing threat posed by the spread of terrorism in Southeast Asia.  For example, we recognize India, the most populous democracy in the world, as a major defense partner.  We did so in part out of respect for India's indispensable role in maintaining stability in the Indian Ocean region." [SourceRemarks at the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore. June 3, 2017
  • "We are also conducting the first ever transfer of a Coast Guard cutter to Vietnam.  And we just completed the inaugural U.S.-Singapore air detachment in Guam, which will give an opportunity to the Singapore Republic to build interoperability between our forces." [SourceRemarks at the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore. June 3, 2017
  • "Nations with strong allies that respect one another thrive.  And those without allies stagnate and wither.  Alliances provide avenues for peace, fostering the conditions for economic growth with countries that share the same vision, while tempering the plans of those who would attack other nations or try to impose their will over the less powerful. I can note just several examples.  I don't want to talk too long, but let me just make note of the United States and Japan implementing the 2015 Defense Guidelines to enhance regional security across the wider spectrum of operations, cooperating ever more closely in the Asia-Pacific. Japan is also contributing to the relocation of some of our U.S. forces to Guam, which is a significant strategic hub for our regional operations. We are working transparently in unison with the Republic of Korea to defend against the growing threats posed by North Korea's aggressive and destabilizing nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs.For the last 100 years, U.S. and Australian forces, Mr. Prime Minister, have shared the battlefield in every major conflict.  President Trump and Prime Minister Turnbull recently commemorated a key part of our shared history when our allied efforts in the Battle of Coral Sea took place.  Our alliance remains relevant to the regional stability in the 21st century as well. [SourceRemarks at the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore. June 3, 2017
  •  "And our combined interoperability with allied forces, enhanced through forced posture initiatives that we're taking, ensures we are prepared to cooperate during real-world crises.  Deterrence of war, however, remains our ultimate goal. We are helping to train, advise and assist the Philippine force in their fight against violent extremist organizations in the south.  And I think we all owe that support to the Philippine government. We also continue to support the modernization of the Philippine Armed Forces to address the country's security challenges.  During this challenging fight against terrorists, we will stand by the people of the Philippines, and we will continue to uphold our commitments to the Philippines under the Mutual Defense Treaty. Our oldest ally in the region, Thailand, has been and will remain instrumental in challenging the wide range of regional threats.  Thailand's announced its intent to hold elections.  We look forward to our longtime friend's return to democratic governance, and the expansion of our military-to-military relationship, grounded in our everlasting confidence in the Thai people." [SourceRemarks at the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore. June 3, 2017
  • "North Korea poses a threat to us all, and it's therefore imperative that we do our part, each of us, to fulfill our obligations and work together to support our shared goal of the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.  We are coordinating with the United Nations, with our allies and partners to put new pressures on North Korea to abandon the dangerous path. I reiterate Sec. Tillerson's statement at the United Nations this last April.  He said, 'Our goal is not regime change, and we do not want to destabilize the Asia-Pacific region.  We will, however, continue to increase diplomatic and economic pressure until Pyongyang," and I quote, "finally and permanently abandon its nuclear and ballistic missiles programs.' Specifically, the United States will maintain our close coordination and cooperation with the Republic of Korea and Japan, two democracies whose people want peace.  Our commitment to the defense of the Republic of Korea and Japan to include the employment of our most advanced capabilities is ironclad."  [SourceRemarks at the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore. June 3, 2017
  • "Five United States states, including my home state of Washington, have Pacific Ocean shorelines.  The United States is a Pacific nation, both in geography and outlook.  And from my first trips as secretary of Defense, and from Vice President Pence's first trips, Secretary of State Tillerson's trips, the American administration is demonstrating the priority that we place on relationships in the Asia-Pacific region, a priority region for us. Specifically, in Vice President Pence 's words, during his trip to South Korea, Japan, Indonesia and Australia, we have affirmed the United States what he called our enduring commitment to the security and prosperity of this region. That enduring commitment is based on strategic interests, and on shared values of free people, free markets and a strong and vibrant economic partnership, a partnership open to all nations, regardless of their size, their populations or the number of ships in their navies, or any other qualifier.  Large nations, as the prime minister reminded us last night, large nations, small nations and even shrimps can all thrive in a rules-based order." [Source] Remarks at the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore. June 3, 2017
  • "Such an order benefits all nations.  America's engagement is also based on strong military partnerships, robust investment and trade relationships, and close ties between the peoples of our countries.  Ultimately, we all share this mighty Pacific Ocean, an ocean named for peace.   We are proud so many young people from Pacific nations choose to come to American universities to study.  And we appreciate that many of our students attend universities in your countries because they return home enriched by your cultures. These people-to-people ties highlight the depth and the breadth of America's relationship with Asia-Pacific nations, and the importance that the U.S. has in terms of its role in the region." [SourceRemarks at the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore. June 3, 2017
  • "The United States will continue to adapt and continue to expand its ability to work with others to secure a peaceful, prosperous and free Asia, one with respect for all nations upholding international law.  Because we recognize no nation is an island isolated from the others, we stand with our allies and the international community to address pressing security challenges, and do so together. As countries make sovereign decisions that are free from coercion, the region will gain increased stability and security for the mutual benefit of all nations.  In our cooperative pursuit of that vision, we cannot ignore the challenges that you and I know we face."  [SourceRemarks at the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore. June 3, 2017
  • On May 9, 2017, Secretary Mattis met with New Zealand Minister of Defense Mark Mitchell in Copenhagen, Denmark to discuss areas to strengthen the US-New Zealand defense partnership. 
  • On April 5, 2017, Secretary Mattis met with Singapore's Minister of Defense Ng Eng Hen at the Pentagon where they discussed the continuing importance of the US-Singapore relationship. Read their joint statement here. 
  • On March 24, 2017, Secretary Mattis met with Indian National Security Adviser Ajit Kumar Doval and members of his delegation at the Department of Defense to reaffirm strong ties between the United States and India. 
  • On March 6, 2017, Secretary Mattis spoke with Japanese Minister of Defense Tomomi Inada over the phone regarding the recent launch of North Korea's ballistic missiles. Both reaffirmed their defense commitments to one another and to work closely with South Korea.  
  • On February 28, 2017, Secretary Mattis spoke with South Korean Minister of National Defense Han Min-Koo over the phone to discuss the bilateral alliance, including official land transfer in Seongju county, which will aid in the stationing of the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) weapons system. 
  • On February 18, 2017, Secretary Mattis met with Singaporean Minister of Defense Ng Eng Hen during the Munich Security Conference in Munich, Germany. They discussed the importance of peaceful resolutions to disputes in the South China Sea and cooperating on maritime security.
  • On February 17, 2017, Secretary Mattis met with Australian Minister of Defence Marise Payne during the Counter-ISIS (C-ISIS) ministerial in Brussels, Belgium. They affirmed their commitment to the alliance between the United States and Australia. 
  • On February 9, 2017, Secretary Mattis called Indian Defense Minister Manohar Parrikar. During their phone call they agreed to continue to build up bilateral defense cooperation between the United States and India.

On February 3, 2017 during his first trip abroad as Secretary of Defense, Gen. Mattis stated during a press conference with South Korean Minister of National Defense Han Minkoo that the United States remains committed to the US-South Korea alliance and maintaining South Korea's security.

To view the transcript of this meeting, click here.

In February 2017 during his first trip abroad as Secretary of Defense, Gen. Mattis stated during a press conference with Japanese Minister of Defense Tomomi Inada that the United States remains committed to the US-Japan alliance and maintaining Japan's security. He also took questions from the Japanese press during the remarks.

To view the transcript of this meeting, click here.

  • "Due to some of the provocations out of North Korea and other challenges that we jointly face, I want to make certain that Article Five of our mutual defense treaty is understood to be as real to us today as it was a year ago, five years ago and as it will be a year and ten years from now. And I look forward to working with the minister and madam minister and I will take care of all the details, Mr. Prime Minister." [Source] Remarks with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. February 3, 2017

During his confirmation hearing for Secretary of Defense on January 12, 2017, Gen. Mattis was questioned by Senator Mazie Hirono (D-HI) as to whether he would maintain a strong US presence in the Indo Pacific region.

China/Taiwan

  • "The object of our peaceful pressure campaign is the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. The U.S. has no interest in regime change or accelerated reunification of Korea. We do not seek an excuse to garrison U.S. troops north of the Demilitarized Zone. We have no desire to inflict harm on the long-suffering North Korean people, who are distinct from the hostile regime in Pyongyang. Our diplomatic approach is shared by many nations supporting our goals, including China, which has dominant economic leverage over Pyongyang. China is North Korea’s neighbor, sole treaty ally and main commercial partner. Chinese entities are, in one way or another, involved with roughly 90% of North Korean trade. This affords China an unparalleled opportunity to assert its influence with the regime. Recent statements by members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, as well as other regional and global voices, have made clear the international community holds one view regarding North Korea’s provocative and dangerous actions: They must stop. Pyongyang must stand down on those actions. China has a strong incentive to pursue the same goals as the U.S. The North Korean regime’s actions and the prospect of nuclear proliferation or conflict threaten the economic, political and military security China has worked to build over decades. North Korea’s behavior further threatens China’s long-term interest in regional peace and stability. If China wishes to play a more active role in securing regional peace and stability—from which all of us, especially China, derive such great benefit—it must make the decision to exercise its decisive diplomatic and economic leverage over North Korea." [SourceJoint statement with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson for The Wall Street Journal "We're Holding Pyongyang to Account." August 13, 2017
  • On June 21, 2017, Secretary Tillerson and Secretary Mattis met with China's State Councilor Yang Jiechi and People's Liberation Army (PLA) Chief of Joint Staff Fang Fenghui in Washington, DC for the first-ever Diplomatic and Security Dialogue (D&SD). 
  • "The Department of Defense remains steadfastly committed to working with Taiwan and with its democratic government to provide in the defense articles necessary, consistent with the obligations set out in our Taiwan Relations Act.  Because we stand for the peaceful resolution of any issues in a manner acceptable to people on both sides of the Taiwan Strait." [SourceRemarks at the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore. June 3, 2017
  • "The 2016 ruling by the Permanent Court of Arbitration on the case brought by the Philippines on the South China Sea is binding.  We call on all claimants to use this as a starting point to peacefully manage their disputes in the South China Sea.  Artificial island construction and indisputable militarization of facilities on features in international waters undermine regional stability. The scope and effect of China's construction activities in the South China Sea differ from those in other countries in several key ways.  This includes the nature of its militarization, China's disregard for international law, its contempt for other nations' interests, and its efforts to dismiss non-adversarial resolution of issues. We oppose countries militarizing artificial islands and enforcing excessive maritime claims unsupported by international law.  We cannot and will not accept unilateral coercive changes to the status quo. We will continue to fly, sail and operate wherever international law allows, and demonstrate resolve through operational presence in the South China Sea and beyond.  Our operations throughout the region are an expression of our willingness to defend both our interests and the freedoms enshrined in international law.  As Prime Minister Modi of India has stated so clearly, 'respecting freedom of navigation and endearing to international norms are essential for peace and economic growth in the interlinked geography of the Indo-Pacific.'  China's growth over these last decades illustrates that the Chinese people have benefited enormously from these very freedoms.  Where we have overlapping interests, again I say, we seek to cooperate with China as much as possible." [SourceRemarks at the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore. June 3, 2017
  • "We welcome China's economic development.  However, we can also anticipate economic and political friction between the United States and China.  Yet, we cannot accept Chinese actions that impinge on the interests of the international community, undermining the rules-based order that has benefited all countries represented here today, including and especially China. While competition between the U.S. and China, the world's two largest economies, is bound to occur, conflict is not inevitable.  Our two countries can and do cooperate for mutual benefit.  And we will pledge to work closely with China where we share common cause. We seek instructive, results-oriented relationship with China.  We believe the United States can engage China diplomatically and economically to ensure our relationship is beneficial, not only to the United States and China, but also to the region and to the world." [SourceRemarks at the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore. June 3, 2017
  • "The Trump administration is encouraged by China's renewed commitment to work with the international community toward denuclearization.  Ultimately, we believe China will come to recognize North Korea as a strategic liability, not an asset.  A liability inciting increased disharmony and causing peace-loving populations in the region to increase defense spending. As China's President Xi said in April, 'Only if all sides live up to their responsibilities and come together from different directions can the nuclear issues on the peninsula be resolved as quickly as possible.'  I agree with the president's words on this point, and those words must be followed by actions by all of us."  [SourceRemarks at the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore. June 3, 2017

During his confirmation hearing for Secretary of Defense on January 12, 2017, Gen. Mattis was questioned by Senator Dan Sullivan (R-AK) on his strategy to prevent further expansion by China in the South China Sea.

Human Rights & Democracy

 

 

North Korea

  • "What we've done with the sanctions is we are putting the leader in North Korea in a position to be aware that the international community, voting unanimously twice now in the United Nations Security Council, seeing the increasing diplomatic isolation that comes with it, comes with the economic sanction that there's a penalty to be paid for ignoring international concerns and norms." [Source] Media Availability With Secretary Mattis. September 18, 2017
  • "Number one, those missiles [recently fired by North Korea] are not directly threatening any of us. Obviously, Japan's missile defenses are up, and their radars are operating. Ours are. And they are intentionally doing provocations that seem to press against the envelope for just how far can they push without going over some kind of a line in their minds that would make them vulnerable. So they aim for the middle of the Pacific Ocean, as you know, where at least we hope no ships are around, right? And the bottom line is that, when the missiles -- were they to be a threat, whether it be to U.S. territory, Guam, obviously Japan -- Japan's territory, that would elicit a different response from us." [SourceMedia Availability With Secretary Mattis. September 18, 2017
  • "We made clear that we have the ability to defend ourselves and our allies – South Korea and Japan – from any attack. And our commitments among the allies are ironclad. Any threat to the United States, or its territories – including Guam – or our allies will be met with a massive military response – a response both effective and overwhelming. Kim Jong Un should take heed the United Nations Security Council’s unified voice – all members unanimously agreed on the threat North Korea poses, and they remain unanimous in their commitment to the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula – because we are not looking to the total annihilation of a country – namely, North Korea. But, as I said, we have many options to do so. Thank you very much."       [Source] Secretary Mattis Statement at the White House. September 3, 2017
  • "If they [North Korea] fire at the United States, it could escalate into war very quickly. Yes, that's called war if they shoot at us. If they do that it's game on. [Source] Remarks at press conference. August 14, 2017 
  • "The U.S. is willing to negotiate with Pyongyang. But given the long record of North Korea’s dishonesty in negotiations and repeated violations of international agreements, it is incumbent upon the regime to signal its desire to negotiate in good faith. A sincere indication would be the immediate cessation of its provocative threats, nuclear tests, missile launches and other weapons tests." [SourceJoint statement with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson for The Wall Street Journal "We're Holding Pyongyang to Account." August 13, 2017
  • "While diplomacy is our preferred means of changing North Korea’s course of action, it is backed by military options. The U.S. alliances with South Korea and Japan are strong. But Pyongyang has persistently rebuffed Seoul’s attempts to create conditions whereby peaceful dialogue can occur, and has instead proceeded on its reckless course of threats and provocation. As a result of these dangers, South Korea’s new government is moving forward with the deployment of U.S. Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense against the threat. We commend South Korea’s decision to deploy this purely defensive capability. Installing Thaad launchers on the Korean Peninsula and conducting joint military exercises are defensive preparations against the acute threat of military actions directed against the U.S., our allies and other nations. China’s demand for the U.S. and South Korea not to deploy Thaad is unrealistic. Technically astute Chinese military officers understand the system poses no danger to their homeland." [SourceJoint statement with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson for The Wall Street Journal "We're Holding Pyongyang to Account." August 13, 2017
  • "We urge all nations to honor their commitments to enforce U.N. Security Council sanctions against North Korea and to increase diplomatic, economic and political pressure on the regime, specifically through the abandonment of trade, which finances the development of ballistic and nuclear weapons. The U.S. continues to consolidate international unity on the North Korean issue through increased engagement at the U.N., at regional diplomatic forums, and in capitals around the world." [SourceJoint statement with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson for The Wall Street Journal "We're Holding Pyongyang to Account." August 13, 2017
  • "The object of our peaceful pressure campaign is the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. The U.S. has no interest in regime change or accelerated reunification of Korea. We do not seek an excuse to garrison U.S. troops north of the Demilitarized Zone. We have no desire to inflict harm on the long-suffering North Korean people, who are distinct from the hostile regime in Pyongyang. Our diplomatic approach is shared by many nations supporting our goals, including China, which has dominant economic leverage over Pyongyang. China is North Korea’s neighbor, sole treaty ally and main commercial partner. Chinese entities are, in one way or another, involved with roughly 90% of North Korean trade. This affords China an unparalleled opportunity to assert its influence with the regime. Recent statements by members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, as well as other regional and global voices, have made clear the international community holds one view regarding North Korea’s provocative and dangerous actions: They must stop. Pyongyang must stand down on those actions. China has a strong incentive to pursue the same goals as the U.S. The North Korean regime’s actions and the prospect of nuclear proliferation or conflict threaten the economic, political and military security China has worked to build over decades. North Korea’s behavior further threatens China’s long-term interest in regional peace and stability. If China wishes to play a more active role in securing regional peace and stability—from which all of us, especially China, derive such great benefit—it must make the decision to exercise its decisive diplomatic and economic leverage over North Korea." [Source] Joint statement with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson for The Wall Street Journal "We're Holding Pyongyang to Account." August 13, 2017
  • "The United States and our allies have the demonstrated capabilities and unquestionable commitment to defend ourselves from an attack. Kim Jong Un should take heed of the United Nations Security Council’s unified voice, and statements from governments the world over, who agree the DPRK poses a threat to global security and stability.  The DPRK must choose to stop isolating itself and stand down its pursuit of nuclear weapons.  The DPRK should cease any consideration of actions that would lead to the end of its regime and the destruction of its people. President Trump was informed of the growing threat last December and on taking office his first orders to me emphasized the readiness of our ballistic missile defense and nuclear deterrent forces. While our State Department is making every effort to resolve this global threat through diplomatic means, it must be noted that the combined allied militaries now possess the most precise, rehearsed and robust defensive and offensive capabilities on Earth.  The DPRK regime’s actions will continue to be grossly overmatched by ours and would lose any arms race or conflict it initiates." [Source] Press Statement. August 9, 2017 
  • "As Vice President Pence stated, the most urgent and dangerous threat to peace and security in the Asia-Pacific is North Korea.  North Korea's continued pursuit of nuclear weapons and the means to deliver them is not new.  But the regime has increased the pace and the scope of its efforts. While the North Korean regime has a long record of murder of diplomats, of kidnapping innocents, of killing of sailors, other criminal activity, its nuclear weapons program is maturing is a threat to all.  Coupled with reckless proclamations, the current North Korean program signals a clear intent to acquire nuclear arm ballistic missiles, including those of intercontinental range that pose direct and immediate threats to our regional allies, our partners and all the world. President Trump has made clear that the era of strategic patience is over.  As a matter of U.S. national security, the United States regards the threat from North Korea as a clear and present danger. The regime's actions are manifestly illegal under international law.  There is a strong international consensus that the current situation cannot continue.  China's declared policy of a denuclearized Korean Peninsula is our policy as well, and also that of Japan and the Republic of Korea.  All nations represented in this room share an interest in restoring stability." [SourceRemarks at the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore. June 3, 2017
  • "The Trump administration is encouraged by China's renewed commitment to work with the international community toward denuclearization.  Ultimately, we believe China will come to recognize North Korea as a strategic liability, not an asset.  A liability inciting increased disharmony and causing peace-loving populations in the region to increase defense spending. As China's President Xi said in April, 'Only if all sides live up to their responsibilities and come together from different directions can the nuclear issues on the peninsula be resolved as quickly as possible.'  I agree with the president's words on this point, and those words must be followed by actions by all of us."  [SourceRemarks at the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore. June 3, 2017
  • "North Korea poses a threat to us all, and it's therefore imperative that we do our part, each of us, to fulfill our obligations and work together to support our shared goal of the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.  We are coordinating with the United Nations, with our allies and partners to put new pressures on North Korea to abandon the dangerous path. I reiterate Sec. Tillerson's statement at the United Nations this last April.  He said, 'Our goal is not regime change, and we do not want to destabilize the Asia-Pacific region.  We will, however, continue to increase diplomatic and economic pressure until Pyongyang," and I quote, "finally and permanently abandon its nuclear and ballistic missiles programs.' Specifically, the United States will maintain our close coordination and cooperation with the Republic of Korea and Japan, two democracies whose people want peace.  Our commitment to the defense of the Republic of Korea and Japan to include the employment of our most advanced capabilities is ironclad."  [SourceRemarks at the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore. June 3, 2017
  • "Past efforts have failed to halt North Korea’s unlawful weapons programs and nuclear and ballistic missile tests. With each provocation, North Korea jeopardizes stability in Northeast Asia and poses a growing threat to our allies and the U.S. homeland. North Korea’s pursuit of nuclear weapons is an urgent national security threat and top foreign policy priority. Upon assuming office, President Trump ordered a thorough review of U.S. policy pertaining to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK). [...] We are engaging responsible members of the international community to increase pressure on the DPRK in order to convince the regime to de-escalate and return to the path of dialogue. We will maintain our close coordination and cooperation with our allies, especially the Republic of Korea and Japan, as we work together to preserve stability and prosperity in the region. The United States seeks stability and the peaceful denuclearization of the Korean peninsula. We remain open to negotiations towards that goal. However, we remain prepared to defend ourselves and our allies." [SourceJoint Statement with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats. April 26, 2017

On March 31, 2017 during his first visit to London, Secretary Mattis discussed the continuing threat posed by North Korea's nuclear and missile tests with British Defense Secretary Michael Fallon. Secretary Mattis stated that North Korea's government is behaving in "a very reckeless manner" and "[T]hat's go to be stopped." [Remarks begin 10:46 at in the video of the press conference.]

In February 2017 during his first trip abroad as Secretary of Defense, Gen. Mattis stated during a press conference with South Korean Minister of National Defense Han Minkoo that the United States remains committed to the US-South Korea alliance and maintaining South Korea's security.

During his confirmation hearing for Secretary of Defense on January 12, 2017, Gen. Mattis was questioned by Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) on President Trump's comments on North Korea and what he believes US policy on North Korea should entail.

South China Sea

  • "The 2016 ruling by the Permanent Court of Arbitration on the case brought by the Philippines on the South China Sea is binding.  We call on all claimants to use this as a starting point to peacefully manage their disputes in the South China Sea.  Artificial island construction and indisputable militarization of facilities on features in international waters undermine regional stability. The scope and effect of China's construction activities in the South China Sea differ from those in other countries in several key ways.  This includes the nature of its militarization, China's disregard for international law, its contempt for other nations' interests, and its efforts to dismiss non-adversarial resolution of issues. We oppose countries militarizing artificial islands and enforcing excessive maritime claims unsupported by international law.  We cannot and will not accept unilateral coercive changes to the status quo. We will continue to fly, sail and operate wherever international law allows, and demonstrate resolve through operational presence in the South China Sea and beyond.  Our operations throughout the region are an expression of our willingness to defend both our interests and the freedoms enshrined in international law.  As Prime Minister Modi of India has stated so clearly, 'respecting freedom of navigation and endearing to international norms are essential for peace and economic growth in the interlinked geography of the Indo-Pacific.'  China's growth over these last decades illustrates that the Chinese people have benefited enormously from these very freedoms.  Where we have overlapping interests, again I say, we seek to cooperate with China as much as possible." [SourceRemarks at the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore. June 3, 2017

During his confirmation hearing for Secretary of Defense on January 12, 2017, Gen. Mattis was questioned by Senator Dan Sullivan (R-AK) on his strategy to prevent further expansion by China in the South China Sea.

Southeast Asia/ASEAN

  • On August 9, 2017, Secretary Mattis met with Vietnamese Minister of National Defense Ngo Xuan Lich to dicuss the growing US-Vietnam defense relationship. 
  • On June 7, 2017, Secretary Mattis met with Indonesian  Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs Luhut Pandjaitan at the Pentagon to discuss strengthening US-Indonesia maritime security cooperation in Southeast Asia, including combatting ISIS. 
  • From June 2 to June 4, 2017, Secretary Mattis met with Asian leaders during and on the outskirts of the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore. During his visit Secretary Mattis met with Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, Australian Prime Minister Malcolm TurnbullIndonesian Minister of Defense Ryamizard RyacuduThai Deputy Defense Minister General Udomdej SitabutrSingaporean Minister of Defense Ng Eng Hen, members of the Association for Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) delegation, and Malaysian Minister of Defense Hishammuddin Tun Hussein
  • "This year marks, ladies and gentlemen, the 50th anniversary of the birth of ASEAN and the 40th anniversary of relations between ASEAN and the United States.  In America, we are proud of our four decades of working together, and we believe that our best days are ahead. The future of ASEAN is bright, and that is good for all Pacific nations.  And here I note Indonesian President Widodo's statement at the 2016 East Asia Summit when he said ASEAN -- he said, 'ASEAN must protect our home and ensure sustainable peace and stability.  Hence, we need a strong and comprehensive regional security architecture that could advance ASEAN's centrality and more effectively contribute to security and regional stability.'" [SourceRemarks at the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore. June 3, 2017
  • "We are also conducting the first ever transfer of a Coast Guard cutter to Vietnam.  And we just completed the inaugural U.S.-Singapore air detachment in Guam, which will give an opportunity to the Singapore Republic to build interoperability between our forces." [SourceRemarks at the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore. June 3, 2017
  • "And our combined interoperability with allied forces, enhanced through forced posture initiatives that we're taking, ensures we are prepared to cooperate during real-world crises.  Deterrence of war, however, remains our ultimate goal. We are helping to train, advise and assist the Philippine force in their fight against violent extremist organizations in the south.  And I think we all owe that support to the Philippine government. We also continue to support the modernization of the Philippine Armed Forces to address the country's security challenges.  During this challenging fight against terrorists, we will stand by the people of the Philippines, and we will continue to uphold our commitments to the Philippines under the Mutual Defense Treaty. Our oldest ally in the region, Thailand, has been and will remain instrumental in challenging the wide range of regional threats.  Thailand's announced its intent to hold elections.  We look forward to our longtime friend's return to democratic governance, and the expansion of our military-to-military relationship, grounded in our everlasting confidence in the Thai people." [SourceRemarks at the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore. June 3, 2017
  • On April 5, 2017, Secretary Mattis met with Singapore's Minister of Defense Ng Eng Hen at the Pentagon where they discussed the continuing importance of the US-Singapore relationship. Read their joint statement here. 
  • On February 18, 2017, Secretary Mattis met with Singaporean Minister of Defense Ng Eng Hen during the Munich Security Conference in Munich, Germany. They discussed the importance of peaceful resolutions to disputes in the South China Sea and cooperating on maritime security. 

During his confirmation hearing for Secretary of Defense on January 12, 2017, Gen. Mattis was questioned by Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA) on whether he will develop a strategy to defeat ISIS in Southeast Asia.

Summits - APEC, East Asia (EAS), & US-ASEAN

 

Trade & Investment

 

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Methodology: Policy materials and quotations from Secretary of Defense James Mattis are limited to after January 12, 2017 when he underwent a confirmation hearing before the Senate. Should any quotations before the period be deemed relevant they will be indicated by an asterisk (*) after the date. In all cases, these additional quotations were made within the year prior to the start of the Trump Administration. Flag icons that indicate which countries members of the Trump administration have traveled to are provided by Freepik, accessed through www.flaticon.com.

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