Press Availability With Secretary of Defense James Mattis, Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, and Australian Defense Minister Marise Payne

07/24/2018 03:40 PM EDT

Michael R. Pompeo
Secretary of State
Palo Alto, CA
July 24, 2018

SECRETARY POMPEO: Well, good morning, everyone. I want to first thank Minister of Foreign Affairs Julie Bishop and the Minister of Defense Senator Marise Payne, as well as their team, for joining us here in California.

Since Secretary of State George Shultz and Admiral William Crowe traveled to Canberra for the first AUSMIN in 1985, our two nations have grown much closer, and I expect that will continue. We’re proud to call Australia one of our best friends and strongest allies. They’re truly that all across the world, and we will continue to work closely together on a range of key bilateral and global issues.

Secretary Mattis and I have had two great days of meetings with Foreign Minister Bishop and Defense Minister Payne. We coordinated closely on aligning our strategic priorities in the Indo-Pacific and beyond. We also reinforced our commitment to ANZUS Treaty, which came into force in 1951, to coordinate how we meet common threats. I’ll let Secretary Mattis speak more directly on our shared security efforts, but I can say that on that front our cooperation and our efforts and our alliance is rock solid.

We also strategized on how best to pursue our shared vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific. Both of our countries will continue to work with likeminded partners to protect freedom of the skies and seas, to promote market economies, to support good governance and liberty, and to insulate sovereign nations from external coercion.

Next week, a week from yesterday, I’ll be articulating more closely and more completely our vision for a thoroughly successful Indo-Pacific economic relationship. I’ll be speaking to the Indo-Pacific Business Forum in Washington along with Secretaries Perry and Ross. But make no mistake about it – the economic relationship between our two countries is strong, whether that’s foreign direct investment, the work that we do on technology together, the fact that we have Australian students here and American students learning there. The economic relationship between our two countries is unrivaled in the world, and I think everyone in the region should know that.

The United States and Australia speak with one voice also in calling for a final, fully verified, denuclearized North Korea, as agreed to by Chairman Kim. Australia has been a great supporter. They understand that the pressure campaign against the DPRK, including the continued enforcement of sanctions, is an imperative for the world to successfully succeed in denuclearizing North Korea.

Our teams at Department of State and Department of Defense will keep doing their part to strengthen this alliance that has done so much for our two nations and for the regional and global peace and stability. The United States and Australia both know we can count on each other constantly, even as challenges present themselves in an era of great competition and uncertainty.

And I’d like to now invite Foreign Minister Bishop to say a few words.

FOREIGN MINISTER BISHOP: Thank you, Secretary Pompeo and Secretary Mattis, for hosting this AUSMIN meeting, our annual Australia-U.S. ministerial dialogue. And both Senator Payne and I were delighted by the warm welcome. We think it is so fitting that it should be here on the West Coast, as we both have a key focus on peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific.

It was also fitting that it should be held at the Hoover Institution. For the 31st president of the United States, after whom this institution is named, spent a number of his formative years in Australia and was a key player in the establishment and building of our global mining and resources industry. And we’re delighted to be here also because it was near here 67 years ago that Australia and the U.S. signed the ANZUS Treaty.

So this is an opportunity and has been an opportunity for us to confirm the strength and the steadfastness of our relationship. We reinforced our collective commitment to the alliance, and we spoke about ways that we can continue to work together. We have a similar view on so many regional and global issues, and we are aligned in so many important ways.

Ours is a partnership about promoting stability and security and prosperity in our region, and we discussed ways where we can continue to work closely together to enhance that commitment, including in economic engagement. We are certainly looking forward to your upcoming speech on the U.S.’s engagement, economically speaking, in the region.
Over two days and five working sessions, we covered a lot of ground. And we have produced a fact sheet, which sets our joint work plan. These meetings are great opportunities for us to reassess our priorities and then confirm what work we’re going to do together in the future.

A key focus of this AUSMIN was our commitment to the Indo-Pacific, and this is arguably the world’s most dynamic region. There are many opportunities but also many challenges. The United States is the global bastion of freedom and democracy, and the great appeal of the United States and one of its undoubted strengths is its network of alliances and partnerships around the world. And so as allies and partners, we discussed ways that we can work more constructively with countries in our region, including the 10 members of ASEAN, with China, with Japan, with India, and with the Pacific Island nations.

We did discuss challenges. And we congratulate the United States on the recent Singapore summit and your efforts in bringing stability to the Korean Peninsula, and we certainly back your efforts in that regard.

We discussed Middle East conflicts. We discussed our work together in countering terrorism. We discussed foreign interference, the cyber challenges that we face. We also discussed many great opportunities for greater trade and investment. Our two countries are already strong trading partners. The United States is one of our most important if not our most important economic partner, given the level of investment that the United States makes in Australia as well as our trading relationship.

We enjoyed very much working with you. We’re looking forward to a deep engagement over the next 12 months as we lead into AUSMIN 2019, when we will host you in Australia. Thank you.

SECRETARY MATTIS: Well, thank you, ladies and gentlemen, for being here with us this morning. I was honored to join Minister Bishop, Minister Payne, Secretary Pompeo as we concluded our 28th Australia-United States ministerial talks. And the talks were an excellent opportunity to bolster our relationship – in my case the security relationship – and to reaffirm our steadfast alliance and close collaboration.

In these past 12 months, we have strengthened our defense cooperation in many tangible ways, finalizing our respective national security and defense strategies to address shared threats and increasing our coordination of joint capabilities development. We’ve enhanced our interoperability and our cooperation in the region through Exercise RIMPAC and numerous other exercises, and that’s continuing our 100-year tradition of teamwork, or mateship as our friends from Down Under call it.

Minister Payne and I signed a cyber memorandum of understanding to enable our countries to perform research and development and together advance our combined cyber capabilities. And our Marine Rotational Force in Darwin will reach the previously agreed-upon number of 2,500 on a timeline determined by our host nation partner, Australia. These actions, to borrow a phrase from Minister Payne, demonstrate that the United States and Australia will walk the walk in the Indo-Pacific.

We share the same strategic goal: to ensure a free, open, inclusive, and prosperous Indo-Pacific, where nations large and small are respected and accorded the protection of international law. The joint work plan we put forth today will help bring this goal to fruition with concrete steps to enhance U.S.-Australia cooperation across our governments by further integrating our combined military operations and committing to step up U.S.-Australian coordination and engagement across the region, including the noted Pacific Islands.

Regarding North Korea, we will keep the pressure on the regime’s denuclearization through the enforcement of the UN Security Council’s international sanctions imposed with the Security Council’s unanimous backing to prevent ship-to-ship transfers of energy supplies. We have also partnered on defense innovation. There we will explore all opportunities for deeper defense industry collaboration now that Australia is included in the U.S. National Technology and Industrial Base.

Overall, our discussions furthered cooperation on these and more issues, strengthening our response to various security challenges. Ministers Bishop and Payne, thank you for your candor throughout our discussions – an openness only possible between loyal and trusted allies. And Australia has been an unwavering friend standing with us through thick and thin, and it was demonstrated by being the first ally on the ground beside us in Afghanistan following the 9/11 attack on America, an attack that cost 11 Australian citizens their lives during the hit on New York City. And we do not forget the families of your soldiers, fellow ministers. We don’t forget the families of your soldiers who have fallen alongside us. I’m confident our enduring and unflappable mateship will continue to grow and flourish for another one hundred years.

Thank you. Minister Payne.

DEFENSE MINISTER PAYNE: Thank you very much, Jim. To Secretary Mattis and Secretary Pompeo, thank you very much for hosting us here for AUSMIN 2018. I also want to thank our teams, who’ve worked enormously hard to put this together. These things don’t happen out of the clear blue sky, so the effort that has gone into that we very much appreciate. Fair to say we all feel very secure as well, so thank you very much for that support.

I want to acknowledge both my friend Ambassador Joe Hockey and my friend Charge James Caruso for their support for AUSMIN 2018 as well.

This is my third AUSMIN and it’s particularly good to be here in Palo Alto. Jim, I can certainly understand why you loved it here so much, or why you do love it here so much, in fact. But importantly for us and part of our discussion today, it’s also a region that is synonymous with innovation, with collaboration, with U.S. ingenuity and leadership.

There’s been a lot said in recent times about the history of the Australia-U.S. defense relationship – 100 years of mateship – of the shared history and the shared sacrifice. But it’s also the ability of our two nations to innovate, and for the relationship to evolve that underpins its success.

Whether indeed it was Monash’s groundbreaking tactics a hundred years ago at the Battle of Hamel when he led United States troops for the first time, or the joint development programs that we’re undertaking today across so many fields – the Poseidon P-8, the Triton, the Growler, just as examples – we continue to innovate and to collaborate to ensure that our alliance is relevant to and, most particularly, ready for today’s challenges.

Nowhere, in fact, as Secretary Mattis has mentioned, is the need for innovation more critical than in cyber, which continues to be a pervasive threat to our militaries and to our businesses.

So we have signed an MOU today to deepen cybersecurity cooperation so that we’re able to jointly develop the tools and the software that we need to both protect and defend against cyber threats.

And just as the challenges continue to evolve, so does the Australia-U.S. alliance. We, however, remain absolutely committed to working with the U.S. to ensure that that alliance remains strong and responsive to emerging threats, especially in our region.

Together, as Secretary Mattis has said, we continue to work side by side around the world, as we’ve done for the past hundred years, to pursue our shared values and those interests that we hold so dear.

Indeed, as we speak, more than 1,600 Australian defense personnel are participating in the world’s largest international naval exercise, the U.S.-led Rim of the Pacific, or RIMPAC.
We’ve all benefitted from the region’s stability for decades. It’s been underpinned by the rules-based global order. And both Australia and the United States are committed to working with our allies and partners throughout the Indo-Pacific to ensure that the region remains open and inclusive and prosperous. And we agreed this week that we will further our cooperation to promote the security, the stability, and the resilience of our Pacific Island neighbors as well.

Whether it’s through exercises with our allies and partners, or building a regional capacity to respond toward our shared challenges of counterterrorism, of humanitarian disasters, or maritime security. There is much that Australia and the U.S. do do together and can do together to strengthen the security of this region.

In relation to North Korea, we are very clear that we’re committed to strengthening cooperation to achieve the final, fully verified denuclearization of the DPRK, and of keeping a focus on sanctions enforcement as well. We also discussed the potential repatriation of personnel missing in action from the Korean War following the historic Singapore summit. Australia has 43 personnel missing in action in the Demilitarized Zone and in North Korea. Their unknown fate continues to be a source of pain and mystery to their families. We’ve provided dental records and DNA information from Australia to assist in the identification of any remains that may be provided to the United States. This remains a challenging process, but a very, very important one. I’m sure there are still hurdles to come in that process, but I do want to thank the United States particularly for their assistance.

Not that we’re necessarily into quoting each other back and forth, but the Secretary did say in our bilateral yesterday that this is a relationship that is never taken for granted. And it is a sentiment very deeply held by both sides. Let me again thank both Secretary Pompeo and Secretary Mattis for hosting us here today, and as Minister Bishop said, we look forward to seeing you in Australia for AUSMIN 2019.

Thanks, ladies and gentlemen.

MODERATOR: Now for those questions, I believe we’ll start with Fox News. Claudia Cowan.

QUESTION: Thank you very much. Thank you for your comments this morning. I have a question for Secretary Pompeo and a follow-up with Secretary Mattis, if I may. Secretary Pompeo, I know you’re testifying on Capitol Hill tomorrow about the Helsinki summit. What is your understanding of the agreements that were made between President Trump and President Putin there? Have you met with the President to discuss those agreements, and have you seen any change in behavior by the Russians that warrant a second summit invitation in Washington? Do you think that’s a good idea? And then Secretary Mattis, sir, have you been asked to prepare options for working with the Russians in Syria, and do you have any concerns about doing so? Thank you.

SECRETARY POMPEO: Thanks for your question about the U.S.-Australia relationship, I appreciate that. (Laughter.) Yes, look, I’ve spoken with the President about the meeting that he held with President Putin, and I was part of a larger discussion as well. I’ve spoken to Secretary – to Foreign Minister Lavrov following that. And the President’s been clear about some of the things that were agreed to. We’re going to begin to put together a business council, there’ll be places we’ll start track-two processes – there were many things that came from what I view as an incredibly important meeting between President Trump and President Putin, one that I’m – I think the world will have benefitted from when history is written.

I am looking forward to testifying tomorrow. We’ll testify about a lot of things, including the relationship between the United States and Russia. But I think – I think one of the things that gets lost is the determination that this administration has had in pushing back against Russian malign behavior around the world. It is unequaled in the history of the United States in terms of when there was a post-Cold War conflict between the United States and Russia, how firm this administration has been in pushing back against those threats. And I look forward to testifying about that tomorrow as well. Jim?

SECRETARY MATTIS: Yeah, in regard to Syria, what we do with the Russian Federation is we deconflict our operations. We do not coordinate them; we deconflict them in time and in space to make certain along the deconfliction lines we are not creating hazardous conditions. But we will not – we will not be doing anything additional until the Secretary of State and the President have further figured out at what point we are going to start working alongside our allies with Russia in the future. That has not happened yet and it would be premature for me to go into any more detail at this point, because we’re not doing any more than this.

MODERATOR: The next question goes to (inaudible) from The Australian.

QUESTION: Thank you. Secretary Pompeo, Minister Bishop has recently expressed concern about China’s creeping strategic and economic influence in the South Pacific. I wonder what you think about this and how the U.S. intends to respond to this. Are you concerned by this? And Secretary Mattis, a U.S. congressman, Joe Courtney, recently said he’d like to see Australia conduct a unilateral freedom of navigation operation in the South China Sea within 12 nautical miles. While respecting that that is Australia’s decision, would you, as defense secretary, like to see Australia do such a thing? And finally, to Minister Bishop, the Australia-U.S. alliance is very strong today, but Donald Trump has proved to be a transactional president when it comes to some close allies. Are you confident that the alliance could withstand any buffeting from an unpredictable president?

SECRETARY POMPEO: Well, I feel compelled to answer your third one too, but I’ll – (laughter) – I’m confident Foreign Minister Bishop can handle that.

Let me speak to – we spent a lot of time over the course of the last two days talking about how to maintain a free and open Indo-Pacific. That threat emanates from lots of places; certainly China poses concerns there. And we talked about all the various elements of power – economic, diplomatic. You talked about freedom of navigation, I’ll let Secretaries Mattis and – Secretary Bishop speak to that a little more directly.

But I don’t think anyone should underestimate the United States continued commitment to this. It – we do it in different ways. We’re a democratic society, so our power is projected in ways that are unique and different from the way that countries that aren’t so free and democratic project their power. And I think the South Pacific, like most places in the world, understand the enormity of having an American ally, the enormity of having a country that consistently, over decades, projects the democratic values, the human dignity that comes with having an American partner is different from having partners that aren’t quite that way. And I think over time that will ultimately prevail, not only in the South Pacific, but all across the world. I think the capacity of America as a partner to inspire, and to create a place where we value our partners in a way that is continuous and noble is unique in history, and one that I think the world fully appreciates. Jim?

SECRETARY MATTIS: Well, we’re totally aligned, Australia and the United States, with what we want as an end state in the Pacific, and that is of course the free and the open Indo-Pacific, where nations large and small are treated with respect for their territorial integrity, for their sovereignty, their sovereign decisions. And I think that as we look at the South China Sea, our concern is that features that have never been militarized before have been militarized by the PRC. We’ve been very – over several administrations we’ve been very clear we disagree with that. But as far as freedom of navigation decisions by Australia, that’s a sovereign decision by a sovereign state. And we coordinate, collaborate across the realm in terms of our military exercises, our military operations. And right now, we’ll just leave that decision with the people of Australia, which is exactly where it belongs.

FOREIGN MINISTER BISHOP: The relationship between the United States and Australia is longstanding, deep, enduring, and at this meeting we committed anew to working together in furtherance of our alliance and our objectives. We are committed to an open, prosperous, inclusive Indo-Pacific. We’re committed to the rule of law and the international rules-based order that has underpinned stability and prosperity, relatively speaking, since the United States instigated that rules-based order over 70 years ago and continues to be the defender and guarantor.

We have already established a very close working relationship with the Trump administration right from the outset. And as we’ve often said, the relationship is so deep and so enduring that changes in the White House and changes in the Lodge in Canberra don’t dent the strength of that relationship. We have a very open and frank dialogue with the United States, with our counterparts, but also President Trump and Prime Minister Turnbull have established a very close working relationship. We don’t always agree with the United States and the United States doesn’t always agree with us, but we are able to work through any differences in a very constructive and positive way, and we’ll continue to do that.

I want to take this opportunity to thank the United States for the commitment to working with us in relation to MH17 and holding Russia to account over its role in the downing of that Malaysian airline that killed 298 people, including 38 Australian citizens and residents. And that’s just an example of how we rely on the United States and how we are grateful for the support that they give us in relation to a matter that is very dear and personal to the hearts of all Australians.

So from my perspective – and this is my fifth AUSMIN – from my perspective, the relationship is as a deep and strong as it’s ever been, and I’m certainly looking forward to working with Secretaries Pompeo and Mattis as we work through the fact sheet that I believe has been handed out that just gives you an indication of the breadth and depth and the diversity of the areas where we collaborate and cooperate and will continue to do so.

MODERATOR: Next question goes to Alexandria Sage with Reuters.

QUESTION: Thank you, good morning. A few questions for multiple parties here. For Secretary Pompeo and Foreign Minister Bishop, there are reports that North Korea has already begun to dismantle its facilities at its Sohae test site. Could you confirm that, and what moves – further moves would you like to see and how soon?

Then for Secretary Mattis, if I may, the President’s tweet on Iran suggested a possible military strike. Where do you see the red line that Iran would have to cross for the U.S. to engage in military force, and are you concerned about some miscalculation between U.S. and Iranian forces in the region based on this escalating rhetoric?

Finally, if I may, Foreign Minister Bishop, could you please update us as to how recently you may have been in touch with authorities in Myanmar for the release of our Reuters colleagues who have been tortured under custody? Thank you.

SECRETARY POMPEO: So let me take the first one first, and then I’ll turn it over to Secretary Mattis. So we’ve seen the open press reporting about the missile engine test site. It’d be entirely consistent with the commitment that Chairman Kim made to President Trump when the two of them were in Singapore together. He made that commitment to them orally. We’ve been pressing for there to be inspectors on the ground when that engine test facility is dismantled consistent with Chairman Kim’s commitment, and I’ll leave it at that for this morning.

The second part of your question was what further steps would you like to take. That’s easy. They need to completely, fully denuclearize. That’s the steps that Chairman Kim committed to and that the world has demanded through UN Security Council resolutions. It’s that straightforward.

SECRETARY MATTIS: Yeah, on Iran, I think that what we have to look at is the destabilizing influence that Iran has consistently portrayed and demonstrated throughout the region. And the only reason that the murderer Assad is still in power – the primary reason – is because Iran has stuck by him, reinforced him, funded him. We see the same kind of malfeasance down in Yemen, where they’re fomenting more violence down there. We’ve seen their disruptive capabilities demonstrated from Bahrain to the kingdom. And it’s time for Iran to shape up and show responsibility as a responsible nation. It cannot continue to show irresponsibility as some revolutionary organization that is intent on exporting terrorism, exporting disruption across the region. So I think the President was making very clear that they’re on the wrong track.

FOREIGN MINISTER BISHOP: In relation to North Korea, Australia stands firmly with the United States and the international community in holding North Korea to abide by the numerous UN Security Council resolutions that banned its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs, and we will offer whatever support we can in the process of verifying the complete dismantling of those programs. In the meantime, we will continue to enforce the sanctions and assist in the enforcement regime to ensure that North Korea is held to the promises it’s made to the President and to the United States about denuclearization. We’re all seeking stability and security on the Korean Peninsula, and the full and verifiable denuclearization of North Korea is fundamental to that.

In relation to the two Reuters journalists that have been detained in Myanmar, our officials have attended every one of the hearings that have taken place. We are aware that the judge has now committed the two journalists to trial. We are in contact with the journalists’ lawyers and we will continue to make representations through our embassy in Myanmar to the government. Of course, there is a judicial process, a legal process, underway, but we are maintaining a very close eye on this particular case because it does go to the whole question of the freedom of the press in Myanmar and the integrity of its legal system. But we are working very closely with other likeminded countries on this and we will continue to be present through our representatives at each of the court hearings. And we’ll also continue to make representations through our contacts with the Myanmar Government.

MODERATOR: Last question is to Ashlee Mullany with Channel 7.

QUESTION: Secretary Pompeo, I have a question today from Anthony Maslin and Marite Norris of Perth, Western Australia. Their young children, Mo, Evie, and Otis, were murdered on flight MH17, along with their grandfather and 294 other innocent people.

This is a question on their behalf in their words: That the plane was hit by a Russian missile has been proven to be an irrefutable fact. That this killed our three beautiful children and their grandfather and destroyed our life and many other lives has been proven to be – is, rather, an irrefutable fact. Secretary Pompeo, will the United States, our friend and ally, help Australia hold Russia to account, and how?

SECRETARY POMPEO: Well, I appreciate the question from you – from them. It’s – my condolences to their family. It’s, indeed, a tragedy. The United States has already been a great partner for the Netherlands and for Australia in trying to identify who shot down this plane. We need the Russians to continue to be held accountable for that. We take this matter seriously and we committed over these last two days, as we have for the last months, to continue to support every effort through the Joint Investigative Team to hold the perpetrators for this heinous activity accountable. You have America’s support in that and will continue to do so.