Media Availability with Secretary Jim Mattis en route to Seoul, South Korea

Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis


            STAFF:   Okay, everybody, just to let everybody know what the ground rules are.  The statement at the top is on the record, and then he's able to take one question on the record, and then we'll go into an off-the-record portion.

 

            SECRETARY OF DEFENSE JAMES MATTIS:  So you're not going to ask me questions first.  This is the first time I get to ambush you.

 

            But basically, what we're doing is what we talked about earlier today, it's a priority for the President Trump's administration.  We pay attention to the Northwest Pacific, to our two strong allies.   Two of the most enduring alliances that we have had have been between Japan and us, and of course South Korea and the United States, and together we confront the North Korean situation.  And so I want to come.  I want to listen to them, engage with their political leaders, listen to some of their briefs, get an understanding of their view of the situation. 

 

            It's not new to me.  I first was here in 1972 as a young officer, but I've been not back out here in a long, long time.  So I'm going to get current by listening to them, finding out where their issues are, and then we're going to work together and strengthen our alliance.

 

            And the goal here, the framework that we share with these two democracies are a safe, and secure, and prosperous and free region, and that's what we're out here for.  And the effort I put into it is designed to set the conditions that we can move forward knowing each other.  We always work better together when we know each other, so I'm coming out to listen.

 

            That's really about all I can tell you right now, since I've got to do some listening before I tell you anything else.

 

            Q:  (Inaudible).   So a question on North Korea, (inaudible).

 

            Do you believe a strategy to deter North Korea over pursuing its nuclear missile program is working, has worked so far?

 

            Will you speak to South Koreans about accelerating the deployment of THAAD?  And do you believe (inaudible)?

 

            SEC. MATTIS:  Say that last part again?

 

            Q:  Do you believe the North is close an ICBM test?

 

            SEC. MATTIS:  Well, you know, North Korea has often acted in a provocative way, and it's hard to anticipate what they do.  It's hard to anticipate what they do.  One of the reasons I want to come out and talk to the leadership out here, they live in the neighborhood.  They watch this as an existential to them, and I need to get to some -- some data from them.  I need to get their appreciation of the situation before I start making statements on where I stand on it.  That's exactly why I'm coming out as those -- the kind of question you just asked.

 

            Q:  (off-mic)

 

            SEC. MATTIS:  Well, I need to talk to them.  I mean, strategies are games of give and take, and I have to see their view of it, and have we maintained what passes for peace so far?  To a degree we have, but we're not trying to just look at today; we're looking at today and we're looking at tomorrow, and I need to see where they view this going right now.

 

            (BREAK IN AUDIO)

 

            SEC. MATTIS:  ... defensive system.  There's only one reason that we even have this under discussion right now, and that is North Korea's activities.  That THAAD is for defense of our allies people, of our troops who are committed to their defense.  And were it not for the provocative behavior of North Korea we would have no need for THAAD out here. . There's no other nation that needs to be concerned about THAAD other than North Korea if their engaged in something that's offensive.

 

            END