Defense Secretary Mattis gives high praise to Alaska after short visit
Defense Secretary James Mattis made a brief stop in Alaska on Sunday and toured the Ground-Based Missile Interceptors at Fort Greely on Monday morning.
This will be Secretary Mattis' seventh trip to the Indo-Pacific region since he became secretary. His travel time began on Sunday, June 24, and runs through Friday, June 29, with stops in Alaska, China, South Korea and Japan.
Mattis arrived at Eielson Air Force Base and was joined by Senator Dan Sullivan. The stop allows Secretary Mattis the opportunity to see the ground-based missile interceptor capability which follows on visits to STRATCOM and Minot Air Force Base that are part of the constellation of capabilities in defense of the Homeland.
"Geography matters, and even if something were called Seward's folly, years ago when he bought it," Secretary Mattis said. "I think we are all so proud of Alaska and the key role it plays in the defense of our country. We'd call it anything but a folly today where it is probably the gateway to the Pacific for us in many many ways, it's one of five states that has a Pacific coastline."
Secretary Mattis pointed out how impressed he is with Alaska's capabilities.
"A critical component in the American deterrent effort against the use of missiles against our country," Secretary Mattis said. "Several hundred soldiers, National Guardsmen up there (Fort Greely) defending the 300 million Americans, and they are very, very much aware of their job and the responsibilities they carry. It's a very sobering reminder for our adversaries that we are able to defend ourselves. It was a real good trip for the senator (Dan Sullivan) and I to see these people going through their drills and their constant state of readiness. It's also a reminder-- if we needed one-- of Alaska's critical role in our nation's defense."
The secretary also commended Senator Dan Sullivan on taking such a possession of the issues that we have to deal with out in the Pacific and by leading by example.
"Senator, your air bases, your radars, the training of your soldiers in the most difficult climates in the world means they are ready for anything," Secretary Mattis said. "The interceptors we have up here, I just want to tell you, ladies and gentlemen, that Alaska, in many ways, is the absolute center in the defense of our country and for the Indo-Pacific region and certainly over the polar ice cap."
Per Jamie Crawford, traveling with the secretary:
After Alaska, the next stop is China. This is Secretary Mattis' first trip to China that follows two previous meetings with interlocutors last year at Mar A Lago and one in Washington at the State Department. These consultations “are designed to exchange strategic perspectives, discuss areas of mutual concern, determine where we have common interests and where our interests diverge.” He said US and allies believe in a free and prosperous Indo-Pacific region.
Third stop will be Seoul to meet with Defense Minister Song and “perhaps other leaders,” in South Korea. Alliance is strong and share democratic values. Share common goal of complete irreversible verifiable de-nuclearization of peninsula. Will consult with minister on the way ahead.
Final stop will be in Tokyo who we work together with “very closely” on de-nuclearization and safety of Japanese people. Will meet with Defense Minister Onodero who he has been in close consultation with. We recognize Japanese concerns of short range and medium range missiles, the abductions of Japanese by North Korea and other areas of concern.
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