Defense Secretary James N. Mattis and his Indo-Pacific regional counterparts discussed security issues during a series of meetings at the 2018 International Institute for Strategic Studies Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore, according to officials.
Mattis, Japan Minister of Defense Itsunori Onodera and South Korea Minister of National Defense Song Young-moo today convened the 10th Trilateral Defense Ministerial Meeting in Singapore, where they held discussions on North Korea, the regional security situation and trilateral security cooperation, according to a statement.
The three ministers welcomed the results of the two recent inter-Korean Summits, to include the “Panmunjom Declaration for Peace, Prosperity and Unification of the Korean Peninsula,” and noted the positive changes that have been brought about are setting favorable conditions for the U.S.-North Korea Summit. They expressed their hopes that the upcoming U.S.-North Korea Summit will contribute to comprehensively resolving matters of security and humanitarian concerns for peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula and in the region, and to this end, pledged to strengthen security cooperation among the three countries.
The three leaders welcomed North Korea’s recent announcement to halt its nuclear and ballistic missile tests, as well as steps to close the Punggye-ri nuclear test site. The ministers agreed to remain united in support of the ongoing diplomatic efforts in the pursuit of the complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. They also agreed to continue enforcement of all relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions.
The leaders welcomed sustained international cooperation to deter, disrupt, and ultimately eliminate illicit activities, such as illegal ship-to-ship transfers. They noted that should North Korea come into full compliance with its international obligations, it would dramatically improve the security and prosperity of the North Korean people. The three leaders noted that multilateral security cooperation led by the three countries plays an important role in maintaining peace and stability in the region.
The leaders also committed to continuing existing security cooperation, including information sharing, high-level policy consultation, combined exercises, and other exchanges, by using trilateral or multilateral mechanisms. They also discussed other regional security issues, including the importance of maritime security and the maintenance of a rules-based order, and 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.
In addition, the three leaders shared the recognition that military-level confidence-building among countries in the region is important, and committed to strengthening cooperation to institutionalize such efforts. The United States reaffirmed its ironclad security commitments to South Korea and Japan, and pledged to continue to work closely together for peace and stability in the region and around the world.
Trilateral Defense Ministerial
Yesterday in Singapore, Mattis, Onodera and Australian Minister for Defense Marise Payne convened a trilateral defense ministerial meeting, according to a statement. They discussed the Indo-Pacific region, North Korea and trilateral defense cooperation. This was the seventh meeting among the three nations’ top defense officials. The ministers affirmed the importance of the Indo-Pacific region, and the key role Australia, Japan and the United States play in upholding a free, prosperous, inclusive, and open international order.
The leaders articulated the shared principles of respect for sovereignty, promotion of free and fair trade and investment, and adherence to international rules and norms. They reaffirmed their strong support for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and its central role in the regional architecture.
The three leaders remain concerned regarding the ongoing situation in the South China Sea. The ministers underscored their shared respect for international law as well as their shared commitment to upholding freedom of navigation and overflight and other lawful uses of the sea, including in the South China Sea. They emphasized the importance of the peaceful resolution of conflict in accordance with international law, including the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, and expressed strong opposition to the use of force or coercion as well as unilateral action to alter the status quo, and to the use of disputed features for military purposes in the South China Sea.
The ministers reiterated the importance of the conclusion of an effective and meaningful Code of Conduct between ASEAN and China. The ministers agreed to remain united to support the ongoing diplomatic efforts to achieve complete and permanent dismantlement of North Korea’s nuclear, chemical and biological weapons and ballistic missile programs. They also agreed to continue enforcement of all relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions. The ministers welcomed sustained international cooperation to deter, disrupt, and ultimately eliminate illicit activities, such as illegal ship-to-ship transfers.
The ministers recognized the importance of further increasing the three countries’ cooperation in the region, with a view to maximizing the opportunities for defense engagement. They affirmed their determination to draft a strategic action agenda that would provide a long term vision for trilateral cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region. The ministers acknowledged the close defense relationship of the three countries, and agreed to increase synergies of both bilateral and trilateral cooperation and coordination on regional efforts such as maritime capacity building, counterterrorism, humanitarian assistance and disaster response, and peacekeeping support.
Defense Ministerial Meeting
Also yesterday in Singapore, Mattis and his South Korean counterpart convened a defense ministerial meeting and held discussions on coordination measures relevant to the current security situation on the Korean Peninsula and key U.S.-South Korea alliance issues, according to a statement. The secretary and the minister welcomed the results of the two recent inter-Korean Summits, to include the “Panmunjeom Declaration for Peace, Prosperity and Unification of the Korean Peninsula,” and noted that positive changes that have been brought about are setting favorable conditions for the U.S.-North Korea Summit.
They agreed that in addition to strong international enforcement of United Nations Security Council Resolutions, the robust U.S.-South Korea alliance and the close bilateral coordination greatly contributed to bringing such changes. The two leaders resolved to strengthen the coordination and cooperation between their two countries. Song explained that defense-related agreements from the inter-Korean Summits will be faithfully implemented and that he will continue to provide defense-level support to ensure implementation of the other agreements. In particular he emphasized that it is important to continue to strongly maintain the U.S.-South Korea defense posture through every step of alleviating military tensions and building trust between the two Koreas, and noted that he will continue to closely communicate with the U.S. in this regard.
Mattis reaffirmed that the ironclad U.S. defense commitment to South Korea will continue to be maintained regardless of the changes in the security situation on the Korean Peninsula, and to this end, noted that U.S. Forces Korea will continue to maintain the current level of forces. Moreover, he stressed that the role of the military will continue to be to reinforce diplomatic measures, such as through cooperation to enforce implementation of United Nations Security Council Resolutions aimed at the objective of complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization.
The secretary and the South Korean minister recognized the progress towards preparation for the operational command transition. This includes acquiring the necessary alliance capabilities and developing strategic documents and operational plans, and the commitment to strengthen cooperation to expeditiously meet the necessary conditions for the transition.
The two sides shared the understanding that the upcoming U.S.-North Korea Summit will serve as a historic opportunity towards denuclearization and building lasting peace on the Korean Peninsula, and resolved to further strengthen the bilateral ministerial communication and coordination to provide defense-level support for setting favorable conditions for the summit.