Mattis Returns From Asia, Resets for NATO Summit in Brussels

Defense Secretary James N. Mattis has just returned from a trip to China, South Korea and Japan and is immediately immersing himself in preparations for attending the NATO Summit in Brussels next week, a Pentagon spokesman told reporters today.

The secretary will advise President Donald J. Trump during the summit. Mattis will then travel to Croatia and Norway, Army Col. Rob Manning said during a weekly gaggle with reporters.

The secretary has visited the Indo-Pacific region seven times during his tenure. During his latest visit, he stressed the need for “strategic transparency” with Chinese leaders. “The leaders discussed a broad range of defense issues and the importance of substantive military-to-military contacts to reduce risk and strategic uncertainty,” the colonel said.

Mattis and Chinese leaders also reaffirmed the need for the complete, verifiable and complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, Manning said. During his meetings, Mattis also stressed the United States would continue to sail and fly wherever international rules allow.

Following his trip to Beijing, the secretary journeyed to Seoul and Tokyo to brief South Korean and Japanese leaders on the discussions.

Turkey’s Joint Strike Fighters

Manning also discussed Turkey’s two F-35 Lightning IIs, which have arrived at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona. “Turkish F-35 pilots and maintainers have already arrived at Luke and will begin flight academics soon,” he said. “Following established agreements, the U.S. government maintains custody of the aircraft until custody is transferred to the partner.”

This normally occurs after partner training is complete, which takes about one to two years, he said. “The U.S. government has not made a determination on Turkey’s future participation in the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter Program,” Manning said.

Turkey is a close and valued NATO ally and has been involved with the F-35 program since it was first announced in 2002.

Manning also discussed U.S. troop levels in Germany. He said the National Security Council did not request a cost analysis of the presence of U.S. forces in Germany.

“But we regularly review our force posture and we provide a cost-benefit analysis to make sure we have the right forces in the right places with the right capabilities,” Manning said. “That’s a constant process across DoD’s global footprint.”

(Follow Jim Garamone on Twitter: @GaramoneDoDNews)