UPDATED 9:38 AM PT — Fri. June 1, 2018
Defense Secretary James Mattis is in Singapore for key security talks, but he will not only be focusing on North Korea.
On Friday, he met with Vietnam’s defense minister to reaffirm security ties between the two countries.
“In March, Vietnam graciously hosted the USS Carl Vinson at Da Nang, the first U.S. aircraft carrier visit since the end of the Vietnam War,” said Mattis.
The defense secretary already signaled the United States’ growing presence in the region by renaming the pacific headquarters to the Indo-Pacific Command earlier this week in honor of increased cooperation with India.
While at the annual security summit in Singapore this weekend, he’s expected to assure several key countries of the United States’ commitment to the region.
The U.S. is partnering with many regional allies to offset China’s growing military aggression on the South China Sea.
Mattis said the U.S. is committed to a free and open South Asia, and is unwavering in its focus.
“We remain fully committed to building our practical defense cooperation to increase regional security through partnership with like minded states, with views reinforcing Vietnam’s sovereignty over its own future,” he stated.
Before the three-days of bilateral talks, he promised to confront China on it’s increased militarization, while continuing with a diplomatic approach.
Mattis assured allies the U.S. commitment to their freedom includes freedom of navigation on the South China Sea.
His meetings include talks with top officials from Indonesia, Japan, Australia, South Korea, India, Vietnam, Malaysia as well as the Philippines.
Some countries have wondered what President Trump’s ‘America first’ agenda will mean for the U.S. role in the region, and Mattis is expected to make that clear.
The Pentagon is set to reveal its new Indo-Pacific strategy in the coming months as the U.S. retains military power from the Indian Ocean to the West Coast.
Mattis will share parts of that plan in an address on Saturday, which is expected to address the North Korean threat as well as China and Russia’s regional power.