Washington, DC – US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and his ten counterparts from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations’ (ASEAN) Defense Ministers Meeting-Plus met last week at the former Clark Air Base, the Philippines, to discuss mutual security challenges and their strong multilateral defense cooperation, chief Pentagon spokesperson Dana W. White said in a statement.
The defense ministers exchanged views on regional security, and Mattis emphasized the need for continued cooperation in the international community to apply greater diplomatic and economic pressure on North Korea to fully implement all UN Security Council resolutions, White said.
Participants at the meeting also emphasized the importance of continued ASEAN unity to address shared security challenges facing Southeast Asia and the broader Asia-Indo-Pacific region, she said.
The secretary and his counterparts discussed the need to increase cooperation on countering violent extremism to stem the threat posed by groups such as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, and they addressed the threat posed by returning foreign fighters.
Mattis expressed his appreciation for the broad range of US-ASEAN security cooperation and encouraged increased operational cooperation on common maritime security challenges, White said.
The secretary emphasized that the nations seek to increase the scope and complexity of exercises, and that the United States is working with like-minded partners to help build maritime security capacity in the region, she said.
Mattis offered continued cooperation in maritime domain awareness and information sharing to address common threats to regional security, White said.
Mattis with Indian Minister Sitharaman
Defense Secretary Mattis also met his Indian counterpart Nirmala Sitharaman on the sidelines of the ASEAN meeting. This was the first meeting between the two leaders after Mattis’ successful trip to India last month.
According to a Pentagon press statement of the meeting: Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis met with Indian Minister of Defense Nirmala Sitharaman October 25 on the sidelines of the ASEAN Defense Ministers’ Meeting-Plus (ADMM-Plus) in Clark, Pampanga, Philippines.
Both agreed on the importance of a rules-based international order in which all nations are able to prosper, and the need to work together against the common threat of terrorism, the statement continued.
The two discussed a range of initiatives to strengthen U.S.-India defense cooperation and enhance India’s leadership role in the Indo-Pacific. In particular, the two emphasized the importance of strengthening maritime security cooperation, and, in support of this objective, decided to implement the program for Helicopter Operations from Ships other Than Aircraft Carriers (HOSTAC), the statement concluded.
Trilateral Defense Ministerial
Mattis also met with his counterparts from Japan and South Korea for the ninth Trilateral Defense Ministerial meeting in the Philippines to discuss North Korea, regional security and deepening security cooperation, according to a joint press conference.
The three ministers strongly condemned North Korea’s ongoing provocative actions, according to a press statement.
The ministers affirmed that North Korea’s two recent missile launches — which overflew Japan — and its Sept. 3, nuclear test constitute an unprecedented and grave threat to their countries, and to the rest of the world, the statement said.
The ministers also resolved to strengthen international coordination to ensure the fast and full implementation of relevant U.N. Security Council Resolutions, including Resolution 2375, in which the Security Council on Sept. 11 unanimously adopted a new sanctions resolution against North Korea as a response to its sixth nuclear test on Sept. 3.
Stop Provocative Actions
The ministers called on North Korea to abandon its unlawful nuclear and ballistic missile programs in a complete, verifiable and irreversible manner; to cease more provocative actions that increase tensions in the region; and to abide by international obligations and commitments, according to the statement.
The statement said the ministers lauded efforts to broaden information sharing on North Korea’s nuclear and missile threats and enhance response capabilities — including the use of multiple combined flight-training missions with U.S. bomber aircraft. They also committed to continue missile warning and anti-submarine warfare exercises, and discussed other regional security issues, including the importance of maritime security.
The three ministers reaffirmed that freedom of navigation and overflight must be ensured, and that all disputes should be resolved in a peaceful manner in accordance with the universally recognized principles of international law.
ICBM Threat From North Korea
The three ministers recognized that the United States, South Korea and Japan face common security challenges in the Asia-Pacific region, and declared that North Korea’s development of nuclear and ballistic missile capabilities — including its intercontinental ballistic missile — threatens the security and prosperity of the three nations, according to the statement.
They also reaffirmed they are committed to enhancing defense cooperation and to maintaining a rules-based order, the statement said. The ministers pledged to take necessary steps to bolster their ability to improve information sharing and strengthen responses to North Korean threats.
The ministers also pledged to actively cooperate to support diplomatic-led efforts to resolve the North Korean nuclear issue through maximum pressure on that nation, according to the statement.
The ministers committed to continue efforts to backstop the international community’s efforts to curb North Korea’s weapons of mass destruction programs and their means of delivery, the statement said.
And, according to the press statement, the ministers decided to continue consultations on security issues and affirmed their strong commitment to promote security cooperation among the three countries to contribute to peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region and around the world.
Mattis On the Way Comments
“I will have meetings while I’m in the Philippines at the ASEAN meeting with regional counterparts – Japan, the Republic of Korea, the Philippines of course, India, Indonesia, and Malaysia,” Mattis earlier told reporters traveling with him to Philippines.
Mattis said the ASEAN defense ministers’ meeting will be an opportunity to recognize ASEAN for 50 years of promoting peace and stability in the region.
“They have done a very good job of it. Nations coming of age, many years finding, finding, basically a foundation where they can discuss things,” he said. “ASEAN nations have demonstrated that they can listen to one another, they identify opportunities to increase defense cooperation for their own security, and seek shared solutions to shared concerns,” he said.