SINGAPORE U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis called on China to help stymie North Korea’s nuclear ambitions, describing the Kim Jong Un regime as a “clear and present danger” to U.S. national security.
Speaking on June 3 at the 16th Asia Security Summit, also known as the Shangri-La Dialogue, Mattis also warned of the threat of terrorism in Asia. “We must defeat extremist organizations wherever they attempt to establish roots — not just in Iraq and Syria, but also here in Southeast Asia,” he said.
Mattis brushed off concerns that the U.S. plans to withdraw from its regional leadership role, and repeated the call by Chinese President Xi Jinping for all sides to “live up to their responsibilities” in resolving issues on the Korean Peninsula. “Those words must be followed by actions,” he said, adding that it is “imperative that all countries do their part to fulfill their obligations and work together to support our shared goal of denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.”
Pyongyang’s nuclear ambitions, coupled with its development of ballistic missiles, pose “direct and immediate threats to our regional allies, partners and all the world,” Mattis said, describing the regime’s actions as “manifestly illegal under international law.”
He described the U.S. commitment to defending South Korea and Japan as “ironclad,” and said, “We will take further steps to protect the U.S. homeland.”
When asked if U.S. President Donald Trump is committed to a rules-based world order, Mattis said, “We will still be there and we will be there with you.”
STERN WORDS The defense secretary had stern words for China regarding its territorial claims and island-building in the South China Sea. “We cannot accept Chinese actions that impinge on the interests of the international community, undermining the rules-based order,” Mattis said.
“We oppose countries militarizing artificial islands and enforcing excessive maritime claims unsupported by international law,” he told the forum. Mattis said the U.S. “will continue to fly, sail and operate wherever international law allows … .”
China kept a relatively low profile this year; the Chinese delegation was headed not by Defense Minister Chang Wanquan but by Lt. Gen. He Lei, a vice president of the People’s Liberation Army’s Academy of Military Science.
On the threat of terrorism in Asia, Mattis called for tighter international cooperation and immediate action so as not to “stunt regional economic dynamism” and endanger long-term regional security. Singaporean Defense Minister Ng Eng Hen agreed, citing the recent activities in the southern Philippines of a militant group linked to the Islamic State organization.
“All of us recognize that, if not addressed adequately, it can prove a pulling ground for would-be jihadists,” the minister said.