North Korea was a topic in almost all of his bilateral talks with leaders of other nations, Defense Secretary James N. Mattis told reporters last night on his return flight from Singapore and his Indo-Pacific region trip.
The secretary’s trip first took him to Honolulu to attend the change-of-command at U.S. Pacific Command, now renamed U.S. Indo-Pacific Command.
While in Hawaii, Mattis met with his Japanese and Indonesian counterparts May 29.
From Hawaii, the secretary traveled to Singapore to attend the 2018 International Institute for Strategic Studies Shangri-La Dialogue.
“The hopes are on [and] riding with the diplomats,” the secretary said of U.S. relations with North Korea. “This is all pretty — frankly — consistent with what we’ve been saying now for a couple of weeks.”
Large U.S. Delegation in Singapore
The U.S. delegation was impressive at the Shangri-La Dialogue, with Congressional bipartisan support and defense and nondefense representation, the secretary said.
“There is a much broader interest in Congress about our presence in the Western Pacific and the Indian Ocean,” he said. “[There was] full support for renaming [the former U.S. Pacific Command] Indo-Pacific Command. And by the way, that was also an international decision.
“So the more we can get the congressmen and women out here — bipartisan, defense and nondefense — I think that says more about a commitment to Asia than just my going,” Mattis added.
Defense Department Audit
The secretary also spoke to reporters about the Defense Department audit that’s underway, which has “traction,” he said.
“It’s an army of auditors going through and taking our programs apart. I just sent a note out to everybody. I just said, ‘We’re going to invite the scrutiny. We’re going to find the problems,’” he said.
“I know it’s uncomfortable to get inspected,” Mattis said. “But this is what’s necessary to maintain [Congressional] bipartisan support and the budgets we need.”
(Follow Terri Moon Cronk on Twitter: @MoonCronkDoD)