Islamabad Politics Report: Defense Secretary James N. Mattis met with several Indo-Pacific leaders on the sidelines of the 2018 International Institute for Strategic Studies Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore June 1.
During Mattis’ meeting with Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, the two leaders reaffirmed the excellent and long-standing bilateral defense relationship between the United States and Singapore, DoD spokesperson Navy Capt. Jeff Davis said in a statement.
Davis said the two leaders exchanged views on the regional security environment and discussed a range of mutual security interests and opportunities for cooperation. With regard to the South China Sea, they reaffirmed the importance of peaceful resolution of disputes in accordance with international law.
Mattis reaffirmed support for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and emphasized the important role ASEAN has to play as part of the U.S. vision for a free and open Indo-Pacific, Davis said.
The U.S. appreciates the access Singapore provides to U.S. forces, Mattis said, and he thanked Singapore for offering to host the U.S.-North Korea Summit, according to Davis.
Mattis also met with Singapore Minister of Defense Dr. Ng Eng Hen, Davis said in a statement. The two leaders, he said, reaffirmed their mutual commitment to the U.S.-Singapore defense relationship and discussed efforts to strengthen cooperation, to include counterterrorism and maritime security.
Davis said Mattis thanked Ng for Singapore’s support enabling the United States’ presence in the region and reiterated his commitment to explore training opportunities in Guam for the Republic of Singapore Air Force. Mattis reaffirmed support for Association of Southeast Asian Nations centrality and emphasized that the Indo-Pacific strategy looks to deepen existing ASEAN multilateral mechanisms.
The two leaders also exchanged views on the regional security environment and discussed a range of mutual security interests, Davis said.
Mattis also met with Vietnam Minister of National Defense Ngo Xuan Lich, Davis said in a statement.
Mattis and Lich discussed the regional security environment, he said, and highlighted historic progress in the defense relationship since their last meeting, including the first post-war visit by a U.S. aircraft carrier to Vietnam in March 2018.
They also reviewed progress on efforts to enhance the defense partnership, with a focus on increasing cooperation on maritime security, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief and peacekeeping operations, while continuing to address legacy of war issues, Davis said.
Mattis affirmed his support for a strong, prosperous, and independent Vietnam and its leadership role in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, Davis said.
Regional, Global Security
Davis said the two leaders agreed that a strong U.S.-Vietnam defense relationship promotes regional and global security, including in the South China Sea.
This relationship, the two leaders said, is based on mutual respect and common interests, including freedom of navigation, upholding international law and respect for national sovereignty and territorial integrity, Davis said.
Mattis also met with ministers and heads of delegation from across Southeast Asia, Davis said in a statement, to discuss the United States’ vision and strategy for the Indo-Pacific region and to listen to their perspectives on security challenges and opportunities for increased cooperation.
Davis said Mattis had a robust exchange of views with the ministers and representatives on regional security issues, focusing on counterterrorism and maritime security cooperation and prospects for a peaceful resolution of tensions on the Korean Peninsula.
Participants welcomed strong U.S. engagement in the region and expressed appreciation for U.S.-ASEAN cooperation, Davis said. Mattis reaffirmed support for ASEAN centrality, and the U.S. vision for a region in which every voice is heard and respected, the spokesman said.
The leaders highlighted the importance of ASEAN speaking with one voice, and welcomed continued progress in fostering practical defense cooperation within the ASEAN Defense Ministers’ Meeting Plus framework, and looked forward to the conduct of the sixth ADMM-Plus in October of this year, Davis said.