Media Availability with Secretary Mattis En Route to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis


SECRETARY OF DEFENSE JIM MATTIS:  Good evening, ladies and gentleman. And first of all, thanks for coming on the trip.  I know you've got a lot of other things you could be doing right now.  

We're on our way.  First stop, Saudi Arabia.  As you know, this is a nation that has been a key security ally since 1944, when FDR and the king began this relationship.  They remain a pillar of our security framework for the region and for American interests.

And I'm on my way to meet with the king and his principal subordinates, and to discuss the security situation as they see it, and how we can deepen and broaden our strategic relationship with them.

So with that, let me take your question here.  Bob?

Q:  Secretary, is the administration planning to increase military support for the Saudis and/or Emiratis in the anti-Houthi campaign in Yemen?

And could you also bring us up to date on what the status of the U.S.-Russia deconfliction and Syria?  Tell us the extent of your concern about the Russian and North Koreans.

SEC. MATTIS:  Okay.  In regards to the Saudi and Emirati campaign in Yemen, our goal, ladies and gentleman, is for that crisis down there, that ongoing fight, be put in front of a U.N.-brokered negotiating team and try to resolve this politically as soon as possible.  It has gone on for a long time.  

We see Iranian-supplied missiles being fired by the Houthis into Saudi Arabia.  And this is something, with the number of innocent people dying inside Yemen, that has simply got to brought to an end.

So we will work with our allies, with our partners, to try to get it to the U.N.-brokered negotiating table.

And then your second question was about the deconfliction line in Syria between the Russian forces and the coalition forces, both operating in some of the same areas -- and certainly adjacent to each other, if they're not in the same areas.

We are deconflicting with the Russians.  We continue to deconflict with the Russians for safety of flight to avoid any kind of misunderstanding or any kind of inadvertent running into each other, frankly, in the air, as we both work against targets in the same vicinity.  

And we will continue to deconflict.  We are not coordinating with the Russians.  We are not coordinating our attacks with them and integrating them with them.  It is a deconfliction effort that we're -- that we have underway there.

So with that, we'll go off the record (sic on the record).

I'll just touch on it here.  You're aware that the leader in North Korea, again, recklessly tried to provoke something by launching a missile.  It was not an intercontinental ballistic missile.  It failed on launch.  And it shows why we're working so closely right now with the Chinese coming out of the Mar-a-Lago meeting between the two nations' leaders, our and the Chinese, to try to get this under control and aim for the denuclearized Korean peninsula that China and the United States, South Korea, Japan, we all share that same interests.


Thank you.