WASHINGTON - Defense Secretary Jim Mattis participated in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Defense Ministers’ Meeting-Plus today in Clark, the Philippines, chief Pentagon spokesperson Dana W. White said in a statement following the meetings.
“Meeting participants recognized the importance of the ADMM-Plus as an inclusive platform for high-level discussions of strategic defense and security matters including North Korea, terrorism and maritime security, as well as to promote practical cooperation and confidence-building among their defense establishments,” she said..
Mattis reaffirmed the United States' commitment to allies and partners across the region, and to a free and open Indo-Asia-Pacific, which includes a strong ASEAN that speaks with one voice on regional and global issues, White said.
The secretary stressed the importance of international cooperation to pressure North Korea in order to realize the shared goal of complete, verifiable, irreversible denuclearization of the Korean peninsula, she said.
Mattis congratulated the Philippines on its recent successes against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria in the southern Philippines, White said. To improve counterterrorism cooperation among ASEAN members, the defense secretary proposed to convene a tabletop exercise to discuss lessons learned from the campaign to defeat ISIS, as well as a workshop on regional terrorist threats at the Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies, she said.
The defense secretary highlighted maritime security as a natural area for deeper cooperation between the United States and ASEAN, and proposed to hold a new maritime exercise with ASEAN partners in 2018, White said, as well as to host a maritime security dialogue featuring regional navies and maritime law enforcement. The secretary reaffirmed the United States' commitment to freedom of navigation, and to fly, sail and operate wherever international law allows.
Mattis congratulated the Philippines on a successful year as ASEAN chair in 2017 -- the 50th anniversary of ASEAN and the 40th anniversary of U.S.-ASEAN relations -- and expressed his best wishes to Singapore's chairmanship in the coming year, she said.
Mattis met with Vietnamese Defense Minister Gen. Ngo Xuan Lich on the sidelines of ADMM-Plus today, White said.
The two leaders exchanged views on regional security and emphasized the need for continued ASEAN cooperation to ensure a free and open Indo-Pacific, she said. They also reaffirmed their intention to deepen the bilateral defense relationship, particularly in the area of maritime security, and highlighted progress made since their August meeting in Washington, White added.
Mattis underscored the United States' commitment to work with partners such as Vietnam to promote a peaceful and stable region, she said.