Saturday, June 30, 2018

U.S.-Japan Alliance ‘Cornerstone’ to Indo-Pacific Stability, Mattis Says

By Lisa Ferdinando, DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON -- The United States and Japan are strong allies firmly committed to peace and security in the Indo-Pacific region, Defense Secretary James N. Mattis said yesterday in Tokyo.

In a media availability after talks with Japanese Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera, Mattis said he and his Japanese counterpart discussed the opportunities to increase the alliance’s capability, deepen cooperation and enhance regional security.

“We’re in the midst of very unprecedented negotiations right now with North Korea,” Mattis said. “But in this dynamic time, the long-standing alliance between Japan and the United States stands firm.”

He described the U.S.-Japan alliance as a “cornerstone of Indo-Pacific stability,” saying the U.S. commitment to the alliance “remains ironclad with a long-term ally.”

Mattis noted the trip was his seventh visit as secretary of defense to the Indo-Pacific region. It was his fifth meeting in recent times with Onodera, he said.

“These visits represent just how strongly we prioritize this relationship between our two militaries,” he said. “I think it’s fitting for trusted allies as America continues to look west and to strengthen long-standing alliances as specified in President [Donald J.] Trump’s Indo-Pacific Strategy.”

Remaining Vigilant on North Korea

Mattis thanked Japan for its commitment to peace and security on the Korean Peninsula, and he underscored the role of the diplomats in the process.

“Our objective remains the complete, irreversible and verifiable dismantling of North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs,” Mattis said. “Especially now, we remain vigilant, and I thank Japan for its ceaseless efforts to promote stability and security.”

The diplomats, Mattis said, are “firmly in the lead,” in alignment with the agreement signed this month by Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

“As our diplomats work to bring this agreement to fruition, the U.S. military, in close coordination with our allies and partners, continues its clear-eyed approach, supporting international sanctions and multiple unanimous U.N. Security Council resolutions,” Mattis said.

The secretary said a pause in U.S.-South Korean joint military exercises is meant to “create space for our diplomats to negotiate strongly, and increasing the prospects for a peaceful solution on the peninsula.” The United States maintains a strong, collaborative defense stance, he said, “to ensure our diplomats continue to negotiate from a position of unquestioned strength.”

Further, Mattis said the United States recognizes the importance of the Japanese abductee issue. He noted Trump raised the issue at the U.S.-North Korean summit in Singapore. He described it as a “humanitarian issue always present in our deliberations,” referencing the unresolved issue in which North Korean agents abducted Japanese citizens in the 1970s and 1980s.

Gratitude for Rescue of U.S. Pilot

Mattis thanked Japan for its rescue of a U.S. Air Force pilot who crashed in the waters south of Okinawa on June 11.

“Thank you for saving the life of our pilot who went down at sea,” Mattis said. “He’s back home with his family, recovering from his injuries.”

The pilot of the Air Force F-15C Eagle assigned to the 18th Wing’s 44th Fighter Squadron successfully ejected and was recovered by Japan Air Self-Defense Force‘s Naha Rescue Squadron, according to U.S. Forces Japan. The pilot was in serious condition, a statement said.

Japan was Mattis’ last stop before returning to the United States. He also visited Alaska, China and South Korea during the tour.

Friday, June 29, 2018

Mattis, Chinese Central Military Committee Official Meet in Beijing

WASHINGTON -- Defense Secretary James N. Mattis met with Central Military Commission Vice Chairman Gen. Xu Qiliang of China at the People’s Liberation Army’s Bayi Building in Beijing today, chief Pentagon spokesperson Dana W. White said.

In a statement summarizing the meeting, White said the leaders discussed a broad range of defense issues and the importance of substantive military-to-military contacts to reduce risk and strategic uncertainty.

“Secretary Mattis acknowledged potential areas of cooperation, including shared interest in the denuclearization of North Korea,” she added.

US and Lebanon Hold Joint Military Commission Meeting

Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs Robert Karem invited Gen. Joseph Aoun, commander of the Lebanese Armed Forces, to Washington, District of Columbia, to co-chair the U.S.-Lebanon Joint Military Commission on June 26-27. 

The two nations reaffirmed the partnership between our militaries and our shared objectives of maintaining regional stability and security, countering terrorism, and building the capabilities of the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) as the sole defender of Lebanon’s sovereignty.

In his opening remarks, Karem commended the LAF for its recent successes in maintaining security and stability within Lebanon and expanding its control of Lebanon’s borders. 

In August 2017, the LAF launched its largest offensive in almost a decade and expelled the last strongholds of ISIS and al-Qa’ida from Lebanese territory.  The LAF also increased its presence throughout Lebanon, with a focus on increasing control over Lebanon’s border with Syria. In Southern Lebanon, the LAF has increased joint border patrols with the U.N. Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) peacekeeping mission.   

Since 2006, the United States has provided security assistance to the LAF, with a focus on transforming the LAF into an organization that is capable of executing complex military counter-terrorism operations, defending Lebanon’s borders, fulfilling Lebanon’s international obligations under U.N. Security Council Resolutions 1559 and 1701, and becoming the sole guarantor of Lebanon’s security and sovereignty.  To this end, Karem announced a new package of assistance for the LAF to improve its mobility and logistics capabilities, including the procurement of 100 up-armored high mobility multipurpose wheeled vehicles (HMMWV), logistics trucks, and associated communications equipment, ammunition, spare parts and training.

Karem’s delegation included U.S. Ambassador to Lebanon Elizabeth Richard and senior defense officials from U.S. Embassy Beirut, along with representatives from the Joint Staff, U.S. Central Command, the Defense Security Cooperation Agency and the Department of State.