US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis held his first bilateral meeting with a foreign leader Monday and later spoke via phone with the South Korean and Italian defense ministers, Pentagon spokesman Navy Capt. Jeff Davis said.
The defense secretary welcomed Jordan’s King Abdullah II to the Pentagon, where Mattis reaffirmed the importance of the U.S.-Jordanian strategic relationship and America’s commitment to security and stability in the region, the captain said.
“The two leaders have had a close and continuing dialogue for many years,” Davis said, adding that the defense secretary expressed his deep appreciation to King Abdullah II for Jordan’s commitment and contributions to the coalition to counter the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.
The two emphasized the close nature of the U.S.-Jordan defense partnership and reiterated their shared commitment to ensuring a stable and secure Middle East, the captain said.
Mattis spoke by telephone with South Korean Defense Minister Han Minkoo to introduce himself and reaffirm the U.S. commitment to defend South Korea and provide extended deterrence using the full range of U.S. capabilities, Davis said. Han congratulated Mattis on his confirmation and both wished each other a happy and prosperous Lunar New Year.
In their discussion, the two leaders affirmed that the U.S.-South Korea alliance of more than 60 years “remains even more relevant today and determined to take steps to strengthen the alliance further to defend against the evolving North Korean threat,” the captain said. Mattis also noted that his visit to South Korea and Japan will be his first overseas trip during his tenure as secretary of defense, and said that the U.S. will stand shoulder-to-shoulder with South Korean forces, Davis said.
The defense secretary discussed the strong U.S.-Italy defense partnership in his call with Italian Defense Minister Roberta Pinotti, the captain said.
In their first conversation, Mattis thanked Pinotti for Italy’s leadership and contributions in Libya, Iraq and Afghanistan, and in securing Europe’s southern flank, Davis said.
“He praised the professionalism, capabilities and compassion of Italy’s deployed forces, saying that Italian forces represent the best that Italy has to offer,” the captain said. “He highlighted specifically Italy’s carabinieri, who are performing the important work of stability police training in several theaters.”
Davis said Mattis also noted his desire to consult closely with Italy on security issues of mutual concern, especially Libya. Both leaders pledged to consult further at next month’s meeting of NATO defense ministers at NATO headquarters in Brussels.