On his first overseas trip as secretary of Defense, James Mattis vowed that the United States would step up to defend Asian allies in light of “some of the provocations out of North Korea and other challenges that we jointly face.”
In joint remarks with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Japan, Mattis said Washington stands by the Japan-U.S. security treaty, which states in Article 5 that “each Party recognizes that an armed attack against either Party in the territories under the administration of Japan would be dangerous to its own peace and safety and declares that it would act to meet the common danger in accordance with its constitutional provisions and processes.”
“I want there to be no misunderstanding during this transition in Washington that we stand firmly, 100 percent, shoulder-to-shoulder with you and the Japanese people,” Mattis said. “…I want to make certain that Article 5 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.”
Abe said he was looking forward to traveling to Washington next week to meet with President Trump.
Abe told Mattis he was “very encouraged to see someone like you” with experience including service on Okinawa being elevated to secretary of Defense.
In Seoul, speaking alongside Defense Minister Han Min Koo, Mattis said he wanted to “make clear the administration’s full commitment to the United Nations mission in defense of your democracy.”
“The United States stands by its commitments and we stand with our ally, the South Korean people. Our alliance is a testament to mutual commitment and respect and it is a linchpin of peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region,” he declared.
“…North Korea continues to launch missiles, develop its nuclear weapons program and engage in threatening rhetoric and behavior. We stand with our peace-loving Republic of Korea ally to maintain stability on the peninsula and in the region. America’s commitments to defending our allies and to upholding our extended deterrence guarantees remain ironclad. Any attack on the United States or on our allies will be defeated and any use of nuclear weapons would be met with the response that would be effective and overwhelming.”
Mattis emphasized steps being taken “due to North Korea’s threatening rhetoric and destabilizing behavior” such as “deploying the highly effective THAAD antimissile unit to the Republic of Korea, to protect its people and our troops that stand beside our ally.”
“We are also committed to expanding trilateral venues of cooperation with Japan where the mutual defense of our nations is best served through teamwork,” he added.
Han said he and Mattis were “able to form a close relationship in such a short period of time.”
“I believe this was possible because we both served as an active duty serviceman for 40-plus years and there is the ROK-U.S. alliance, a strong thread that binds us together,” the South Korean defense minister said. “As Secretary Mattis has said during his conformation hearing, nations with strong allies thrive and those without wither.”